Heartland Theatre dabbles in magical realism for its latest production, “The Electric Baby,” opening this weekend and running through Sept. 28.
For the uninitiated, magical realism is a genre in which seemingly impossible events naturally occur in an otherwise realistic environment. Hence, a baby that glows like the moon in “The Electric Baby” by Stephanie Zadravec. And that’s just the start.
Directed by Jimmy Chrismon, “The Electric Baby” concerns a group of fractured souls whose paths cross after a fateful car crash. Storytelling and folktales fuel this work of sad endings, strange beginnings, and the threads that connect us all. Chrismon revealed that after reading the play for the first time he was ... well ... electrified by it.
“When I finished reading it, I thought ‘What did I just read?’ I want to know more about these people, what’s happening, what’s going on in their lives? Why am I in love with these characters? Why do I hate them at the same time?”
With one read, Chrismon was haunted. Over the past seven months in preparing the play for Heartland Theatre, Chrismon said he is still asking himself those same questions.
“I love a play that has those layers you can dig into and get lost in. Every night in rehearsal, it’s been something new to discover about the characters.”
Two of the main characters are Romanian Natalia and Nigerian Ambibola.
“And they both communicate to the audience, to each other and to those around them with storytelling,” Chrismon said. “It’s all about how one event can change your life and put you in contact with all these other characters and these stories unfold, with quite a bit of humor throughout.”
“The Electric Baby” explores the power of traditional and modern fables. The characters pull folktales from their home countries and through their interactions with the other characters, they all make a new fable, created by the various threads of the characters. Thread is a key metaphor in the play.
“Natalia is knitting throughout the show, and we have these beautiful quilts that are going to go against the back wall. My scene designer took this idea that I had from my very first reading. As I read the play, I kept seeing these patchwork quilts that my grandmother would make.”
There’s also a plethora of wires and cables that will cross the stage that are essentially keeping the titular baby alive.
“The baby is very ill, very fragile,” Chrismon said. “The baby represents the fragility of life and the preciousness of the time that we have. When you have a sick child, things get put into perspective.”
“All of the characters in the show are hurt. And they are dealing with grief and loss. I believe at the core of all grief and loss is love. You can’t hurt for something that you’ve lost unless you’ve truly loved it. I hope people will see that when they come see these characters.”
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