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Mine at the Gift Theatre Company | Theater review

Laura Marks's eerie play marries modern parenting anxieties with folklore, but the Gift's production doesn't bring it to full fruition.

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
1/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
2/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
3/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
4/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
5/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
6/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
7/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

 (Photograph: clairedemos.com)
8/8
Photograph: clairedemos.com

Mine at the Gift Theatre Company

New mother Mari (Hillary Clemens) has done everything right. She's had her apartment scanned for lead paint; she's taken all the prenatal vitamins; she's secured the services of an empathetic midwife (Alexandra Main) to help her deliver her baby in-home in an inflatable birthing pool. Mari and her über-supportive husband, Peter (Gabriel Franken), and her own semi-flighty but loving mother, Rina (Deborah Ann Smith), have dotted their i's and crossed their t's so meticulously that one imagines the new parents have already pre-applied for the city's best nursery schools before their daughter is born in Mine's opening scene.

So why does Mari wake up the next morning with the horrifying—and as she herself realizes, totally irrational—sense that the baby in the bassinet isn't her daughter?

I'm hard-pressed to recall the last time I reviewed a play whose central conceit, the plot point on which it drives, felt as much like a spoiler to be protected as in Laura Marks's 2011 work, but it seems unavoidable to say it intertwines modern parents' endless landscape of fears with the folkloric tradition of the "changeling," or the supernaturally switched baby, and that the stranger played by Cyd Blakewell with an appropriately jarring otherworldliness plays into that interweaving.

Clemens convincingly embodies Mari's baby-doubt and self-doubt, and Blakewell, an actress whose off-kilter mien I've long found compelling, brings that bearing to her characterization of Amy. Unfortunately, the scenes between the two highlight a slack energy in Marti Lyons's production that also permeates Clemens's interactions with the rest of her world. There are a lot of of interesting elements here, but like Mari and her baby, they just can't seem to bond.

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