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American Renegade's Tense 'Baby Dance'

October 15, 1994|PHILIP BRANDES

Jane Anderson's "The Baby Dance" is a fertile-enough script to sustain two consecutive--and markedly different--Los Angeles stagings. More overtly confrontational than the delicately nuanced Theatre 40 production that closed last month, the American Renegade Theatre Company's tense version makes for profound moral dilemmas and some particularly sharp exchanges when a childless Hollywood yuppie couple (Janet Wood, Noel Webb) contract with an impoverished Southern family (Tammy Kaitz, Paul Gunning) to assume the expenses for Kaitz's pregnancy in exchange for adoption rights to the child.

From Wood's early grimace at the sight of the white bread and Spam her surrogate thrives on, an eventual culture clash explosion is inevitable. Solid performances from Kaitz and Wood make the women's outbursts compelling, and Gunning's portrait of a slovenly bigot is frighteningly believable.

But director Jessica Kubzansky amplifies the emotional intensity across the board, sometimes to unnatural heights. Simultaneously delivered dialogue originally scripted as statements and responses prove glaringly artificial.

As in past productions, premature audience applause illustrates the awkward placement of the brief final scene after the work has already hit its emotional ending.

* "The Baby Dance," American Renegade Theatre, 11305 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 4. $10-$12. (818) 763-4430. Running time: 2 hours.

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