By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
The Alien Baby Play (Stage 3, Walterdale Theatre)
“Thank you so much for coming!” beams the cordial, slightly breathless woman we meet in The Alien Baby Play, the latest from Impossible Mongoose. “It means a lot you could come over….” She’s even made cookies.
We’re here to support Bethany in her hour of need. She’s 15 months pregnant, we’ve been invited to the birth, and tonight’s the night. The father will be on hand. And here’s the tricky (but intriguing) thing: he’s an alien.
Bethany, as she tells us, has had a devil of a time trying to figure out how overcome skepticism — even though the Virgin Mary set the precedent for impregnation by the other-worldly. She’s been battered by the prospect of disbelief, and thank god we are different!
Jessy Ardern fleshes out this theatrical premise — a character throwing herself on our mercy — in a dimensional performance that’s full of manic charm, and a kind of brisk forthright practical humour that’s well nigh irresistible. She’s a great performer.
And in Bethany she creates a memorable character up against the cosmic unknown, excitable, apprehensive about the future and yet somehow hopeful. The American playwright Nicholas Walker Herbert gives her a play to work with that opens up expands ease-fully into an odd, imaginative exploration of what it means to be an outsider in the world. And Corben Kushneryk’s Canadian premiere production gives her the room to breathe, to pause, and to reach out to connect with us, apparently on a one-on-one basis. Defences are futile when you’re at a home birth.
Bethany is a former Grade 3 teacher, with that kind of enthusiasm, who knows the value of a show-and-tell, a bulletin board, a pointer. Having retained her own, she values the “sense of wonder” in little kids, witness a devotion to the study ancient ruins visible only from the sky and impossible to explain in pragmatic terms.
The situation in which she finds herself in this oddball play is an invitation to elasticized, expansive thinking — about love, about being a parent, about being human. And it hits your heart in the strangest ways.