During my formative years in the suburban south, it seemed that the word “pro-life” extended beyond political headlines and chants: it was ingrained in the teen culture. Friends invited me to youth lock-ins that emphasized anti-abortion ideals, and sex-ed centered on the view that abstinence was my only option. I remember a fellow student walking into class and handing me a fetus figurine, hoping to make an impact.
Mom Baby God sucker punched me with scenes and characters that resurrected these memories, convincing me that the playwright and solo-performer Madeline Joey Rose has done her research. This production gives audiences a glimpse at the rhetoric and viewpoints of anti-abortion activists while unveiling how this movement tries to attract young supporters. And while Mom Baby God brings forth a unique kind of dramedy, the show suffers, at times, from gawky pacing and over-explaining.
Mom Baby Gone: The Tragicomedy of a Pro-life Teen
closes March 10, 2018
Details and tickets
Rose (predominately) plays Destinee Grace Ramsey, a 14-year-old anti-abortion vlogger who adorkably loves Justin Bieber just as much as she loves Lila Rose (an actual anti-abortion activist who’s known for having gone undercover at abortion facilities). We join Destinee as she attends the Students for Life of America Conference, where she meets a variety of activists, struggles to contain her crush on a Christian teen idol, and grapples with her sexual desires.
My favorite aspect of the show is Destinee. Rose could have easily made this character a zealous straw man, but she drills into and exposes Destinee’s confusion over her developing sexuality, showing how even the most fervent activist’s individual beliefs can clash with the overall beliefs of their movement. It’s a feeling that activists on both sides, anti-abortion and abortion rights, might experience.
It’s an understatement to say that Madeline Joey Rose is a strong actress. As we watch Mom Baby God unfold through Destinee’s point of view, Rose switches between a plethora of characters that interact with Destinee, taking on a different type of voice, accent, and body language in the blink of an eye. It’s hard enough to develop the voice and mannerisms of one character, let alone several. But this creative choice is also why Mom Baby God stumbles. There are times that the back-and-forth interactions between Rose as one character and Rose as another are not distinct enough, making the transitions seem just as awkward as Destinee. As I watched Rose, I kept wondering what this play would be like if the cast was made up of more than one person.
The pacing of Mom Baby God left me in a confused state of wanting more and asking for less. We spend way too much time at each of the conference’s workshops, and not enough with Destinee’s conflicts. I understand that Rose is trying to convey detailed representations of what these kinds of conferences are like, but there’s a fine line between giving the audience a play by play of each workshop and getting the point across with more show and less tell. Albeit, the one-woman-format may be why such over-explaining is needed.
The quiet scenes, the ones where we see Destinee experiencing discomfort, those are the gems. They give the play nuance, and I kept hoping that Mom Baby God would spend more time with them.
Mom Baby God by Madeline Joey Rose. Directed by Lise Bruneau. Featuring Madeline Joey Rose. Costume design: Tessa Lew. Set and prop design: Crista Noel Smith. Set and prop assistant: Jessica Andrews. Light design: Chris Curtis. Sound design: Kenny Neal. Scenic artist: Kristian Quick. Projection design: Patrick Lord. Projection assistant: Kathryn Callahan. Assistant director: Linda Lombardi. Stage manager: Donna Reinhold. House/box office: Renee Beaver. Press agent: Kelsey Mesa. Marketing and design: Erin White. Production assistants: Jenna Berk, Liz Daingerfield, Julia Smouse, Katelyn Manfre, Jen Rabbitt Ring, and Marcus Kyd. Produced by Taffety Punk Theatre Company. Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.