DC native Stefanie Zadravec is a resident playwright at New Dramatists in New York City, and over the last seven years, has seen her star rise with a Helen Hayes Award for the 2009 staging of Honey Brown Eyes at Theater J and as the recipient of the 2013 Francesca Primus Prize for her play, The Electric Baby. Rorchach Theatre is giving that play its DC premiere, opening for previews tonight. Co-Artistic Director Randy Baker is handling directing duties.
“It’s a play that I had seen readings of and had read, and it’s been on my radar for a long time,” Baker shares. “Honey Brown Eyes was just an amazing play and I’ve always had my eye on Stefanie as a playwright. I’ve long been a fan of this work, and excited that we’re now producing it.”
The play begins with a tragic car accident that kills a young man, and, as Rorschach describes what happens next, “causing a group of fractured souls to cross paths and connect around a mysterious baby who glows like the moon.”
“Like a lot of Rorschach shows, this is something a little different,” Baker says. “We are always interested in where magic and commonplace meet, often loosely defined as magical realism. This idea about supernatural things happening to everyday people and the real and imagined connecting.”
One older couple is dealing with the loss of their daughter; an immigrant couple is facing their own sadness; and a younger couple must deal with the death of their child in the crash.
“You have these three very different stories that are all sort of drawn to this baby who, in a sense, changes the whole thing,” Baker says. “It’s a very real character-based play, with three different couples on the verge of change. The magic doesn’t take away from the real struggle these characters are having.”
The play takes on even deeper significance for actress Jennifer J. Hopkins, a new mother who plays the mom of this magical glowing baby. Baker notes it’s very real to her and gives props to her performance.
“The baby in the play is essentially dying and we know that from the beginning of the play, and for Jennifer, a new mom, it is always very affecting to her every night,” Baker says. “It’s very powerful and a beautiful play and Jennifer and our whole cast are pretty amazing.”
The Electric Baby also stars William Aitken, J. Shawn Durham, Cam Magee, Kiernan McGowan and Sarah Taurchini.
Baker admits that the play is a lot quieter and smaller than Rorschach is generally known for producing and one shouldn’t expect the usual “sudden stage freights” Rorschach fans have come to expect from the company. After all, this is a relationship piece.
“One of the things I love about this play is the idea about a baby born with not a lot of time to live, and it’s such a sad idea—possibly one of the saddest things you can think of—but Stefanie takes a completely different approach to it,” he says. “Instead of focusing on the tragedy of that, she focuses on that amazing magical short amount of time that you have with this living thing. She makes it a metaphor bigger than that. It’s not just a magical time, but the baby is magical and has an affect over time and space itself.”
The Electric Baby
April 24 – May 15
at Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Check for Discounts!
When researching the play, Baker and cast members looked at numerous stories of women who had babies who they knew would only live for a short time and their reactions were almost always the same.
“These articles weren’t about how terrible that was, but about what an amazing month that was,” he says. “They were about how it changed their lives and changed the universe and it just seemed such an unconventional approach.”
Not that there aren’t sad things in the play, and you should probably expect to shed a tear or two.
“It’s a crazy, funny play that has very tragic circumstances. It’s not like anything I’ve ever read,” Baker says. “The play does end with hope and that’s surprising because the stakes are high and it doesn’t seem like it’s headed towards a hopeful ending.
The idea is this very short brief amount of time can affect your entire life and your entire world. But it’s fun and relevant and vital. A lot can happen in a short amount of time and that time should be cherished.”