Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
A NICU within a hospital is essential and potentially life saving. Anyone whose newborn remains there for a day or a week or longer appreciates the enduring value of the NICU. A baby's existence is tenuous until he or she leaves for home.
Daniel (Andy Lucien) hadn't an expectation of becoming a father. When his child is born at the 26-week mark, Daniel is seemingly stunned by circumstances at first, then he steps forward. Caroline (Jennifer Ikeda), a highly skilled and genuinely caring night-shift nurse, tends to the baby at the little one's isolette.
The St. Germain stage affords anyone a close-up look at proceedings. Scenic designer Wilson Chin's set invites observers to vicariously and emotionally feel the nearly constant intensity of the presentation. Daniel and the baby's mother, one gathers, were not planning to be lifelong partners. That said, the child is theirs and Daniel is both ill-equipped but reactive with his emotions. Caroline is adept, blunt and honest. She insists that Daniel properly wash his hands before approaching the baby and oftentimes checks his hospital ID wrist bracelet.
Caroline has issues of her own since she has two small children and isn't able to put them to bed. She's resentful of her schedule and she wonders if her husband is capable as the primary evening parent. Daniel is an event planner for a bookstore chain and he's worried about meeting his job requirements. But he's visibly attached to his premature baby and hellbent on getting this child out of the NICU.
If the nurse seems nonplussed when baby Sophia experiences a heart or brain event, that is because Caroline is both poised, adroit and ever attentive. She's fully aware and absolutely tuned-in. Daniel, though, is impatient and frustrated as a month becomes much, much more than that and he feels, perhaps, that the baby should have been allowed to leave with him.
And what has become of the birth mother? See the play to solve that urgent mystery.
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, acclaimed for his direction on and off Broadway and at multiple regional companies, coaxes his actors who respond with pinpoint precision and delivery.
Andy Lucien has been cast at Lincoln Center and for BSC's Clybourne Park, and he brings numerous television credits including "The Blacklist," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Madam Secretary," and more. Jennifer Ikeda was in Top Girls on Broadway and at The Public and Soho Rep to name a few of many impressive theater companies. She's been on "Blue Bloods" and "New Amsterdam."
The actors are simultaneously relaxed and attentive; it seems that they've been working together for years. Their eyes lock on many an occasion and the dramatic stress is galvanic. They find drama virtually all of the time. Playwright Lew has layered his script with several comic instances. While the overall situation is inherently anxious, Daniel, on more than occasion, is audacious with his commentary.
Call tiny father nerve wracking, but credit its author for breaking free with just enough humor. There is a clearly imperative subtext addressing race and gender as well. The cumulative build-up becomes more and more suspenseful. A theatregoer simply cannot turn away or turn off from the engrossing enactment of Lew's script. Will Daniel ever get his baby out of this NICU?
tiny father runs through July 22, 2023, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.