Christopher Durang


Full Length Plays

Baby with the Bathwater

 

Baby with the Bathwater was first presented off-Broadway on November 9, 1983 by Playwrights Horizons in New York City; Andre Bishop, artistic director, Paul Daniels, managing director.  The production was directed by Jerry Zaks, set designed by Loren Sherman, costumes designed by Rita Ryack, lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton, sound designed by Jonathan Vall.  Production stage manager was Esther Cohen, stage manager was Diane Ward.  Understudies were Melodie Somers and William Kux.  
The cast was:

Helen  ...............................  Christine Estabrook
John  ...............................  W.H. Macy
Nanny/Woman in the Park/Principal  ...............................  Dana Ivey*
Cynthia/Woman in the Park/Miss Pringle/Susan  ...............................  Leslie Geraci
Young Man  ...............................  Keith Reddin

* Ms. Ivey had to leave the production after three weeks due to a Broadway commitment in Heartbreak House. Her roles were taken over first by Kate McGregor-Stewart, and then by Mary Louise Wilson.

Prior to the Playwrights Horizons production, Baby with the Bathwater had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 31, 1983; Robert Brustein, artistic director, Rob Orchard, managing director. The production was directed by Mark Linn-Baker; sets designed by Don Soule; costumes designed by Liz Perlman; lighting designed by Thom Palm; sound designed by Randolph Head. Production stage manager was John Grant-Phillips. The cast was:

Helen  ...............................  Cherry Jones
John  ...............................  Tony Shalhoub
Nanny/Woman in the Park/Principal  ...............................  Marianne Owen
Cynthia/Woman in the Park/Miss Pringle/Susan  ...............................  Karen MacDonald
Young Man  ...............................  Stephen Rowe

Baby with the Bathwater is a dark comedy about how difficult it is to be a parent, and how scary it is to be a baby and a child. The play is written in an absurdist, playful style and, for all its dark topic, has a hopeful ending. 

Some reviews included:

Gifted young playwright Christopher Durang is offering one of the best plays of the season with his brief, complex comedy on parenthood, "Baby with the Bathwater."   From the start of his career up to more recent plays such as "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You" and "Beyond Therapy," Durang has been turning the pain of his own life into deeply felt and hilarious satires of modern urban angst.  "Baby with the Bathwater" has the tart wit and keen style of a writer born for the comedy of manners.  
    
-- Richard Christiansen, Chicago Tribune (reviewing the N.Y. production)

Mr. Durang is one of our theater’s brightest hopes – he knows how to write funny plays, which makes him a rarity. In "Baby with the Bathwater," he manages to combine all three modes [farce, satire, good-humored wackiness]… Durang keeps laughter bubbling...  We laugh and gasp at the same time. 
     --
Sylviane Gold, Wall Street Journal

Christopher Durang is one of the funniest dramatists alive, and one of the most sharply satiric.  This time, parenthood is the target.  Keith Reddin, as the former Daisy, is the perfect Durang leading man, puzzled and gravely polite, until he finally asserts himself.  
     --
Edith Oliver, The New Yorker 

Nanny – a warped Mary Poppins as played by Dana Ivey – believes that cuddling children only spoils them.  She gives the baby a rattle made of asbestos, lead and Red Dye No. 2.  … Daisy proves a fuller creation than the outrageous facts suggest.  Watching the character undergo therapy, we feel the pain that leads him to have more than 1,700 sexual partners, that makes it impossible for him to find an identity or a name.  A playwright who shares Swift’s bleak view of humanity, [Durang] conquers bitterness and finds a way to turn rage into comedy that is redemptive as well as funny.  
    
-- Frank Rich, New York Times

The Story:


Helen and John are very unprepared for parenthood.  They can’t seem to name the baby.  John thinks it’s a boy, but Helen says the doctors said they could decide later.  When the baby cries, they can’t quite decide what to do.  To their rescue comes Nanny – who enters their apartment as if by magic, and is full of abrupt shifts of mood, first cooing at the baby soothingly, then screaming at it. In subsequent scenes, John and Nanny have an affair, Helen takes baby and leaves, only to come back a moment later rain-soaked and unhappy.  (“Well if it isn’t Nora five minutes after the end of A Doll’s House,” says Nanny.)   At some point they finally name the baby Daisy, and as a toddler, Daisy has a penchant for running in front of buses; or for lying, depressed, in piles of laundry.  We hear an alarming essay Daisy has written in school, and the principal, the terrifying Miss Willoughby, is oblivious to the essay’s cry for help, and instead gleefully awards it an A for style.  Finally, we meet Daisy – dressed as a girl, but otherwise a polite, confused young man.  In a “jump cut” sort of scene, we follow his years and years of therapy, where he alternates feeling depressed and angry, and is unable to complete his Freshman essay on Gulliver’s Travels for over 5 years.  In the end the play comes full circle as the former Daisy and his young bride fondly regard their own baby—forgiving of the past but determined not to repeat its calamitous mistakes.


Durang offers a small rewrite of Act Two, Scene One - Click on Essay on Updating

Cast size: 2 male, 3 female
Rights: Dramatists Play Service

[Note: if you want to use a bigger cast and not double the roles, the cast could also be 2 male, 8 female.]

photos by Gerry Goodstein

Macy,  Wilson, Estabrook Macy and Ivey Macy and Ivey

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