Which is better, the idea of having children or actually having them? That's the question posed by the current show from Theater Schmeater, "Cradle and All" by Daniel Goldfarb. And while I felt the play itself lacked a solid ending, the show manages to be a fun and funny look into the joys and hardships of parenting and an excellent character study of two disparate couples.
Claire and Luke (Alyson Bedford and Matthew Middleton) are a childless couple making their way through their freewheeling lives. Problem is they gotten themselves into a rut and Claire suddenly announces she'd like to add a baby to the mix. Meanwhile, in the apartment across the hall, Annie and Nate (also played by Bedford and Middleton) are dealing with the harsh realities of parenthood with their new baby who cannot seem to get through the night without crying. And so while Claire and Luke imagine the glorious and sometimes messy abstracts of having a baby, Annie and Nate are faced with the brutal and sometimes beautiful honesty of actually having one. A show filled with laughs from these two couples, it makes for an entertaining evening but that's it. I just felt the play lacked any kind of overall punch line or resolution, especially for Claire and Luke in Act One which just kind of ends.
Bedford and Middleton handle the dichotomy of their respective characters with grace and ease as they manage to make very distinct choices for both. Bedford's Claire is light and frothy with an upbeat outlook on the possibilities of motherhood while her Annie is much more pragmatic and strong while being a little disheveled by the reality. And Middleton turns in a slightly repressed former dreamer with his Luke and then a wonderfully jovial Dad with his Nate. He even manages an offstage "hallway" conversation between his two characters with a definite separation of who is who. And the two of them together bring tons of chemistry, heart and truth to their roles while still remaining witty.
Director J.D. Lloyd keeps the pace and timing clipping and infuses the show with loads of compassion for these two couples and the set from Peter Frost transports the audience into a wonderful yet versatile bit of realism. And so the show itself is a winner. I only wish the play had been able to give some kind of ending or "a-ha" moment for the arc of the couples as they continue on their parental journeys.
"Cradle and All" plays at Theater Schmeater through February 18th. For tickets or information contact the Theater Schmeater box office at 206-324-5801 or visit them online at www.schmeater.org.
Photo credit: D Hastings