Thu Mar 26 2009
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
READY TO POP LaChanze, left, and Lewis prepare for a new arrival.
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Inked Baby does its best to get under your skin. It is clear from the opening scene—in which a man prepares to have awkward, strictly time-limited sex with an attractive woman in lingerie—that the play's young author, Christina Anderson, has a great deal of promise. At first you assume that Lena (Angela Lewis) is a prostitute, and Greer (Damon Gupton) her nervous john; but in fact she is his sister-in-law, helping him have the child that his own wife, the uptight Gloria (LaChanze), cannot carry to term. "I feel like we're Adam and Eve," says Greer. "There's a snake in that story," Lena replies.
A huge serpent does turn out to be coiled beneath the seemingly idyllic, familiar and nostalgized New York suburbia where Anderson's story unfolds. A mysterious disease is spreading through the neighborhood; in the play's brightest stroke of imagination, this plague seems to return people directly to the earth from which they sprang. The evening moves along swiftly, thanks to some first-rate scene writing and consistently solid acting. (Nikkole Salter is especially impressive as Lena's friend, and Che Ayende smolders well as a tattoo artist.) But although there are germinal ideas about possession, marking and contamination in Inked Baby—and although director Kate Whoriskey works hard to bring these themes to the fore in various ways—much of the most important material seems vague and underdeveloped. The play is good enough to prick you, but not to leave a lasting mark.—Adam Feldman
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