In North Hollywood “TheBaby Project” is also the new theater project.
“The Baby Project” is the play that opens the Road Theatre’s second venue, a brand new luxuryhousingcomplex for artists and art aficionados 62 years and older. Called the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, it isbelievedto be the first housing complex in the nation to open with aprofessional 73-seat theater on-site, plus studiosfor painting, sculpture,photography, and other visual arts; a quiet library for writers; film editingfacilities;classrooms and lecture halls for teachers, writers, andvisiting artists and free art and yoga classes forresidents.
Most exciting for Taylor Gilbert, the founding artisticdirector of the Road Theatre is the fact that this beautifulnew “second space”(the first is housed in the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd. inNorthHollywood) offers the company “the opportunity to expand our season and present alternate productions.” Inaddition, she says, “our hits can run longer because we won’t have to shut themdown to set up our nextproduction.”
Gilbert is also enthusiastic about presenting the company’sfirst musical,”The Baby Project,”which opened thisweek.
“The play ispartially funded by a [National Endowment for the Arts] grant and the book and lyrics are written by LoriJaroslow incollaboration with Fonda Feingold and Noriko Olling on themusic. It’s a different direction forus, because ourtypical fare is not ‘fun.’ It’s usually heavy or dark. Thisstory is about a middle-aged woman in search offamily.”
Originally conceived as a solo, autobiographicalperformance, the play has been expanded to a musical witha cast of fiveplaying some 38 parts in the life of a bisexual 40-something New Yorker whowants to have ababy.
“But my girlfriend at the time (played by a soft-spoken Kasi Jones) didn’twant to have a baby,” says the lead, Dana, (a dynamic Lani Shipman), “so I putit off — temporarily.”
Further, it isn’t so easy to conceive at that age and afterDana had gone through numerous fertility processesunsuccessfully she is advisedby her doctor to “go to L.A., where the sperm is better …”
In L.A. she is especially amazed by the traffic bulletins onthe radio.
“They give you directions to all the accidents,” shesays. “And what’s a sig-alert? I think I may have just hadone.”
Meanwhile, her mother (Susan Boyd Joyce), a professionalbass player whose phone rings to the tune ofHava Nagila, is “busy suffering.” She is horrified that Dana is considering using the sperm of a Germanman.
“It’s payback,” Dana responds. “I’m going to use it to build a better Jew.”
While she’s waiting to become a mother, Dana takes a job asa substitute teacher in South Central L.A. Herjob is to “teach everything,” which is OK with her, “as long as itisn’t math or science.” So, of course,she isassigned to teach algebra.
The kids are unruly, disrespectful and undisciplined. Especially a pregnant 14-year-old named Nora(JillianEaston) who eventually comes to play a significant role in Dana’slife.
This is a musical that is funny and well acted, and all fiveplayers have exceptionally strong and beautifulvoices.
The songs they sing are fun and advance the plotsuccessfully. A highlight is an ensemble number, “YouDon’t Know,” and anothercalled “Love Schmove” in which Dana sings her conviction that love isoverrated.
As for the new Road Theater, it is everything a producer — oran actor — could wish for: ample spacebackstage, comfortable seats, and anunencumbered sightline for everyone in the house.
“The Baby Project”will continue at the Road Theatre at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747Magnolia Blvd. inNorth Hollywood Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 17. Call (866) 506-1248 orvisitwww.RoadTheatre.orgfor tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at email@example.com.