Paula Vogel’s play “HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE” won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She sensitively shed light on a girl’s relationship with her uncle, who had initiated her sexually during driving lessons when she was 11 years old. It left me clearer on the effect of this on the main character. I was expecting the revival of Vogel’s And Baby Makes Seven would pull me into these characters in their unusual situation. But, not only did it not illuminate the situation it took me into a darker, more confused place.
Baby introduces us to a lesbian couple, Ruth (Susan Bott) and Anna (Constance Zaytoun) and a gay man, Peter (Ken Barnett), who live together. He has impregnated one of the women, and they all await the birth of the baby. But the baby will not make a family of four but a family of seven. There are three imaginary boys that talk through the two women. It is not clear what these boys represent: something feared/hated in themselves or each other?
The characters’ real issues concerning a threesome family and the coming baby are barely considered. Instead the focus is on these imaginary boys. It is decided these boys must be killed off, why? Much of the action revolves around how to get rid of these boys, getting rid of them, and later getting them back. Along the way there are many superfluous references to Shakespeare, Peter Pan, The Children’s Hour, etc.
The set and lighting literally and figuratively kept me in the dark. The opening scenes are unlit as we hear difficult – to-decipher children’s cartoon like voices. When the lights do come up our vision is still obscured by a semi-translucent plastic scrim. The three actors are skilled professionals. But, I wonder if this is an example of the paucity of good roles for actors with “real” material to work with. In a previous revival there was speculation that the negative reaction to this play was in reaction to a lesbian kiss and the unusual family grouping. I wonder if it was at least as much about what was omitted rather than that was included.
I have no doubt about the exceptional abilities of Paula Vogel, I look forward to her future work.
Written by: Paula Vogel Directed by: Marc Stuart Weitz
Cast: Ken Barnett, Susan Bott, Constance Zaytoun
Remaining Showtimes: March 25, 26, 27, 28 thru April 12; Location: The New Ohio Theater, 154 Christopher Street; Ticket price: $30 – $35 Ticket information: 888 596 1027