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Only Child

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Michael Bayler as the oblivious husband, Pat. Anna Doyle as his flirtatious wife, Jess. George Mulder as the equally oblivious prince.

I’m George Walker

                Aaron Ricciardi’s Only Child  is his thesis in the IU Theatre’s 7th Annual Festival of New Plays. Theatre goers may remember his  Nice Nails  from last year. At Thursday night’s tech rehearsal, Director Jenny McKnight apologized that we’d see the show with Naomi s. Gold’s lighting, but faculty member Andrew Hopson’s sound design would have to wait for opening night.

                Anna Doyle plays Jess, a school teacher in what seems to be an ongoing confrontational marriage with husband Pat a store manager, Michael Bayler. The two have a three old child. Despite her protestations, Jess continually undercuts the defensively confused Pat. At one point in the play she talks about being smitten with Pat, but it seems a longtime ago. Their chosen evenings at home are couch cuddles as they watch others play in staged reality TV shows. In Jenny McKnight’s skillful in the round staging Jess’s is the only voice that I occasionally strained to hear.

                Sometime faculty member Martha Jacobs, Abbi is our time signature figure through Only Child. She’s Jess’s grandmother. Her mother, Jess and Pat’s daughter at three and thirteen and later the daughter looking back from middle age. The grandmother’s old world wisdom is about men. One, they always cheat and two, the good looking ones aren’t as good in bed because they feel they don’t need to prove anything. It’s a masterfully handled a tour de force for Jacobs, especially when she’s playing a three year old. The only laugh in the play came when someone said that the teen Abbi looked like her grandmother.

                George Mulder appears in Jess’s school as a prince and heir to the thrown of some small distant monarchy. He’s a fresh charming figure but since he always wears a crown, a bit of a figure of unreality At the same time, he frequently receives grounding calls from his helicopter mother. Jess is smitten and right from the beginning is outrageously flirting with her gifted student. To add opportunities she integrates the prince into her family as a student, a friend and the honorary uncle for her daughter. Jess’s life is at the center of Only Child but she has a tenuous hold  on our sympathy and it’s partially defeated by her youthful appearance, aggressive criticism of her husband, and her obvious attraction to the prince.

                Scenic designer Jeremy Smith has created a series of brightly striped boxes that might be giant children’s blocks. They open and close as the actors produce props for the scenes. Then, they’re chairs, tables, barbecues, double and single beds. Erin Barnett is the costume designer for the show. Intimacy choreography is by Leraldo Anzaldua.

                Aaron Ricciardi’s Only Child –    plays February 22-23 at 7:30pm; February 26-28 at 7:30pm; March 1-2 at 7:30pm; March 2 at 2pm (in the Wells-Metz Theatre)

                At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker

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