In North Hollywood “The¬†Baby Project” is also the new theater project.
“The Baby Project” is the play that opens the Road Theatre‚Äôs second venue, a brand new luxury¬†housing¬†complex for artists and art aficionados 62 years and older. Called the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, it is¬†believed¬†to be the first housing complex in the nation to open with a¬†professional 73-seat theater on-site, plus studios¬†for painting, sculpture,¬†photography, and other visual arts; a quiet library for writers; film editing¬†facilities;¬†classrooms and lecture halls for teachers, writers, and¬†visiting artists and free art and yoga classes for¬†residents.
Most exciting for Taylor Gilbert, the founding artistic¬†director of the Road Theatre is the fact that this beautiful¬†new “second space”¬†(the first is housed in the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd. in¬†North¬†Hollywood) offers the company “the opportunity to expand our season and present alternate productions.” In¬†addition, she says, “our hits can run longer because we won‚Äôt have to shut them¬†down to set up our next¬†production.”
Gilbert is also enthusiastic about presenting the company‚Äôs¬†first musical,¬†”The Baby Project,”¬†which opened this¬†week.
“The play is¬†partially funded by a [National Endowment for the Arts] grant and the book and lyrics are written by Lori¬†Jaroslow in¬†collaboration with Fonda Feingold and Noriko Olling on the¬†music. It‚Äôs a different direction for¬†us, because our¬†typical fare is not ‚Äòfun.‚Äô It‚Äôs usually heavy or dark. This¬†story is about a middle-aged woman in search of¬†family.”
Originally conceived as a solo, autobiographical¬†performance, the play has been expanded to a musical with¬†a cast of five¬†playing some 38 parts in the life of a bisexual 40-something New Yorker who¬†wants to have a¬†baby.
“But my girlfriend at the time (played by a soft-spoken Kasi Jones) didn‚Äôt¬†want to have a baby,” says the lead, Dana, (a dynamic Lani Shipman), “so I put¬†it off ‚Äî temporarily.”
Further, it isn‚Äôt so easy to conceive at that age and after¬†Dana had gone through numerous fertility processes¬†unsuccessfully she is advised¬†by her doctor to “go to L.A., where the sperm is better ‚Ä¶”
In L.A. she is especially amazed by the traffic bulletins on¬†the radio.
“They give you directions to all the accidents,” she¬†says. “And what‚Äôs a sig-alert? I think I may have just had¬†one.”
Meanwhile, her mother (Susan Boyd Joyce), a professional¬†bass player whose phone rings to the tune of¬†Hava Nagila, is “busy suffering.” She is horrified that Dana is considering using the sperm of a German¬†man.
“It‚Äôs payback,” Dana responds. “I‚Äôm going to use it to build a better Jew.”
While she‚Äôs waiting to become a mother, Dana takes a job as¬†a substitute teacher in South Central L.A. Her¬†job is to “teach everything,” which is OK with her, “as long as it¬†isn‚Äôt math or science.” So, of course,¬†she is¬†assigned to teach algebra.
The kids are unruly, disrespectful and undisciplined. Especially a pregnant 14-year-old named Nora¬†(Jillian¬†Easton) who eventually comes to play a significant role in Dana‚Äôs¬†life.
This is a musical that is funny and well acted, and all five¬†players have exceptionally strong and beautiful¬†voices.
The songs they sing are fun and advance the plot¬†successfully. A highlight is an ensemble number, “You¬†Don‚Äôt Know,” and another¬†called “Love Schmove” in which Dana sings her conviction that love is¬†overrated.
As for the new Road Theater, it is everything a producer ‚Äî or¬†an actor ‚Äî could wish for: ample space¬†backstage, comfortable seats, and an¬†unencumbered sightline for everyone in the house.
“The Baby Project”¬†will continue at the Road Theatre at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747¬†Magnolia Blvd. in¬†North Hollywood Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 17. Call (866) 506-1248 or¬†visit¬†www.RoadTheatre.org¬†for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at email@example.com.