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Full Length Plays

Baby with the Bathwater


Baby with the Bathwater was first presented

off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in New York City

Artistic Director, Andre Bishop,  Managing Director, Paul Daniels 

November 9, 1983.  

Directed by Jerry Zaks

Scenic Design by Loren Sherman

Lighting Design by Jennifer Tipton

Costume Design by Rita Ryack

Sound Design by Jonathan Vall

Production Stage Manager, Esther Cohen, Stage Manager Diane Ward


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

* 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.

Understudies were Melodie Somers and William Kux.  

Prior to the Playwrights Horizons production,

Baby with the Bathwater had its world premiere at the

American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Artistic director, Robert Brustein, Managing Director, Rob Orchard

March 31, 1983


Directed by Mark Linn-Baker

Scenic Design by Don Soule

Lighting Design by Thom Palm

Costume Design by Liz Perlman

Sound Design by Randolph Head


Production Stage Manager, John Grant-Phillips


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

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

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