By Kay Kipling
If you’ve never heard of the practice of creating highly authentic-looking baby dolls to represent the real thing (to “replace” a lost child or, perhaps for a host of other motivations), or even if you have, Urbanite Theatre’s current production of Reborning may creep you out a bit.
There’s something disturbing about seeing a workshop stocked with shelves of disassembled body parts—legs, arms, heads—and it can be just as disturbing to see the fully assembled package, complete with realistic-looking hair and, perhaps, moving eyes. Playwright Zayd Dohrn uses those dolls for shock value occasionally in Reborning, but the play is after much more than that in its depiction of three characters brought together in that studio/workshop in Queens.
First of all we meet Kelly (Megan Rippey), hard at work on her latest creation for a new client, Emily (Natalie Symons), who has very specific details she wants in her doll to replicate her lost daughter, Eva. She also seems to want to form some sort of connection with Kelly, whose traumatic past gradually comes out in dialogue between her and Emily. Kelly’s boyfriend, Daizy (Urbanite co-founder Brendan Ragan), like Kelly a former art student, one who’s got his own business fabricating adult sex novelties, already knows Kelly’s story, but in spite of it he thinks it might be good for her—them—to have a baby of their own.
Kelly isn’t so sure, given her fragile mental state, not exactly aided by popping pills and swigging wine straight from the bottle. She can be a handful, but we care about her, thanks to a nicely balanced performance by Rippey. And when the situation for her, Emily, Daizy and that doll baby reaches a crisis, it’s totally believable and compelling.
I won’t give away any more of the plot, since Dohrn’s play depends on several twists and turns you may not see coming. Suffice it to say that, under the mostly taut direction of Brendon Fox and with three strong performances onstage, Reborning is 85 minutes or so of tightly packed humor, drama and emotion.
Reborning continues through July 5 at Urbanite; for tickets call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com.