'Be My Baby' charms with warmth and humor
By Warren Gerds
September 6, 2007
FISH CREEK – Songs of young Elvis Presley and Tony Bennett, a baby, a trip in time to when pizza was a novelty and superb acting are part of the beautiful “Be My Baby,” playing at Peninsula Players Theatre for six weeks.
The production oozes expertise.
On stage, Carmen Roman and Greg Vinkler show again how dynamic and wide-ranging they are as actors. Roman is comically acidic as a fussy aunt. Vinkler bristles at her in a thick (right on) Scottish accent as a grumbly uncle.
Behind the scenes, director Tom Mula applies his trademark care.
The script is from multifaceted playwright Ken Ludwig, who wrote such favorites as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” This time, he transports the audience to the 1950s, flipping between Scotland and San Francisco.
The setup: A young couple can’t have children, and a baby has come up for adoption and only their closest relatives (who don’t like each other and seem set in their ways) can make the long-distance trip to get the infant. OK, this is a manufactured premise, but it’s a launch pad for savory stuff.
More setup: Roman is Maud, aunt of Gloria (Cassandra Bissell), an impetuous 19-year-old who’s about to marry good-natured Christy (Joe Foust), a wealthy Scotsman who has been raised by his uncle, John Campbell (Vinkler).
Maud thinks John is crude and cheap. John thinks Maud is uppity and opinionated. She’s English. He’s Scottish. Never the twain shall meet, it seems. Then necessity forces them to travel together to San Francisco.
Ludwig conveniently draws out the trip. The characters develop depth in serious and humorous ways. Sample of the latter: Ludwig teases John as a Scotsman with deep pockets and short arms. John’s purchase of necessities for the baby includes one bottle, one nipple, two diapers and one diaper pin.
The script has degrees of difficulty that only pros can handle successfully.
It demands a lot of scene changes, done smartly. It demands two actors to play multiple background characters, which Maggie Carney and James Leaming do with zest. It demands precision of its leads, and you have to go far to top Roman and Vinkler.
“Be My Baby” has delicious moments. One is when it makes perfect sense that heaven for one person is reading a poem by Robert Burns while listening to the music of Elvis Presley. Another comes as Maud takes her first, panicky, wide-eye airplane flight.
For a critic, it’s delicious hearing John make a casual reference to William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part 1,” knowing that the guy playing John performed last year in a special production of that play in Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon, England.