By Ken Haggerty, Editor Friday, May 29, 2015
Another bout of thought-provoking drama arrives at the Urbanite Theatre next month with Reborning, a complex and dark comedy written by Zayd Dohrn and directed by Brendon Fox.
Based on the phenomenon in which customers purchase expensive infant dolls made of latex and plastic either on e-bay or through private avenues. The dolls are incredibly lifelike in every detail.
The play visits this world when Kelly (played by Megan Rippey), a well-respected maker of ‘reborn’ babies, is approached by Emily (played by Natalie Symons) to make a doll that resembles her deceased daughter.
What follows is a clash of primal instincts between a mother whose pain of losing a child is at times too much to bear, and an unsuspecting young woman who reaches the point of insanity in her pursuit of satisfying her customer’s demands.
It may sound creepy, but first appearances can be deceptive, and as Rippey can attest, her character transforms throughout the play.
“Kelly is clearly a craftsman,” says Rippey. “She clearly has this gift and her work is rarely challenged. But when Emily arrives in her life, all that changes and she is forced to try an understand notions of motherhood.
Rippey finds herself constantly challenged during the daily rehearsals, as the layers of the play slowly reveal themselves.
“As I get further into Kelly, as we unpack the play, I’m seeing the depths in front of me and I find myself behaving differently each day as I develop a connection with the dolls we use.
“At first I was creeped out by them, but now I’m almost protective of them on a gut level. I find it silly at times.”
Working at the Urbanite Theatre has a special meaning for Natalie Symons, who spent time in the Nineties working in many of the Fringe Theatres in Seattle.
“What Urbanite has proven in such a short time is that Sarasota embraces daring and thought-provoking drama. I’m thrilled to be part of it and I can’t wait to see what the audience makes of Reborning because it’s a wild ride. The discussions afterwards will be fascinating.”
Although not a mother herself, Symons finds it frightening nevertheless to delve into the pain of losing a child, saying it’s possibly the worst of all our fears.
“It’s the underlying thread that runs throughout the piece; I don’t know how people can carry on, it’s profound.”
Stepping away from his day-to-day duties as Urbanite’s artistic co-director, Brendan Ragan plays Kelly’s boyfriend, Daizy in the play and is justifiably proud of staging Reborning for the first time in the South following a successful stint in Los Angeles.
“People will be knocking down the doors of the theatre when the content of the play becomes known,” he said.
“I took some time to consider if I was right for the part, but I’ve worked with the director before and I knew the Urbanite would be in good hands with my colleague and co-director Summer Dawn Wallace. My job is just to be an actor.”
The essence of the plot Ragan suggests revolves around the concept of artifice with the characters pretending to be someone they’re not.
“I think we all try to give the impression we’re well put together,” he explains. “On the surface, Emily is a successful person, but she’s crumbling. There’s a real human pain underneath her surface, a pain that’s she’s carried with her for 20 years.
“It’s a maternal struggle between two women who have been abandoned in some way.”