Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Demon Baby

Play #26 - Demon Baby by Erin Courtney

Here's a strange little play about an American couple named Art and Wren who have just moved to London for Art's job. While there, Wren is also supposed to be working on writing a children's book - though it's less of a children's book and more of a pamphlet to be handed out to expat children to help them adapt to their new surroundings. As they settle into their new home, Art seems to be doing very well - enjoying his job, etc. Wren, on the other hand, is lethargic and unproductive and almost never even leaves the flat. In her time at home, she starts to have visions of what she refers to as a Demon Baby. The Demon Baby looks like a garden gnome, and likes to sit on her chest, pinning her down so that she cannot move. Her relationship with the Demon Baby grows over time, however, so that they start to converse, and she even lets him tell her what to say when they have a dinner party. In the end, her friend Cat who had been singing the praises of living in London decides to leave her husband, take their children and go home - this is not what she had wanted for herself. Wren convinces her to stay at the party and take out some of her frustration on their pinata...but oops... she falls off the roof. In the final scene, Art is stuck on the floor underneath his own Demon Baby, discussing how much he hates his job and hates where they live, but the Demon Baby assures him that he will get over it and just fit in. Art and Wren never get to a point where they can really communicate about their frustrations - they pretty much always have their respective Demon Baby on their chest, holding them down, keeping them stuck in place.

When I first started, I assumed that the Demon Baby was going to be some sort of parenthood metaphor, and Art does ask if Wren is pregnant when she first tells him about the visitation, but I don't think it really ended up having much to do with it. The Demon Baby is that thing that keeps us stuck, the personal doubts and hangups and excuses that keep us from being happy. Even in the final moments, when Art tries to tell Wren that they should go home, The Demon Baby keeps him from being heard - both by Wren and by himself. The Demon Baby will keep him in his good job that he hates. There is no real solution posed in this play to conquering the Demon Baby, so it ends up feeling pretty unsettling. But perhaps that's the point? Perhaps we have to watch other people being crushed by their Demon Babies before we can confront our own? I dunno... I may be reading way too much into this. <shrug>

PS - I just noticed that she's another student of Mac Wellman's. That sort of gives me some context for the off-kilterness of the piece. And just to be clear - I actually like this about the piece. It just makes a lot more sense knowing where some of her roots are.

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