OST's "Maybe Baby' tackles topic of love

OKOBOJI, IOWA - Love is in the air at Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) this week. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship can tell you finding and maintaining love isn't always fun or easy. "Maybe Baby, It's You" explores the universal search for ...

OKOBOJI, IOWA - Love is in the air at Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) this week.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship can tell you finding and maintaining love isn't always fun or easy. "Maybe Baby, It's You" explores the universal search for a soul mate and the ups and downs accompanying that alternately delicious and disappointing journey.

Advancing from rigid, unrealistic lists of requirements for mates--"He must have some sort of European accent and long, dark hair"--to settling for whatever walks through the door--"I'll take anything that has breath in it"--the seven capable actors lead the audience on a laugh-out-loud yet thought-provoking trip that makes for an entertaining experience.

This contemporary adult comedy premiered off-Broadway in 1999 with its writers, Charlie Shanian and Shari Simpson, portraying the various characters in the 11 vignettes that make up the play.

The OST version, masterfully engineered by guest director Pamela Sterling (an Arizona State University faculty member), delivers a seamless production tied together with video clips of actual OST audience-goers and cast members musing on the nature of romance in their lives. These video additions, a la "When Harry Met Sally," inject an element of realism into the theatrical product that was welcomed by an audience familiar with reality T.V. and talk show formats.


It was, however, also the first time this reviewer has seen OST employ such a video vehicle, and despite its inventiveness, a few technical problems--i.e., consistent volume levels and better allowance for audience laughter--need to be addressed.

The set is spare, comprised entirely of two large, square scrims that frame one "big-screen T.V." (the latter piece doubles as a backdrop and video screen). Designed by OST technical director Nathan K. Lee, the set is primed for allowing--and requiring--the actors' creativity and physicality to enliven the show.

Six of the actors are Stephens College students, and the seventh--Herbert Moore--is a recent alumnus who is spending his third summer at OST.

All of the ensemble members act with a skill and maturity far beyond their years. Their uniformly terrific depictions of characters ranging from a middle-school girl to disgruntled senior citizens never failed to raise laughs or nods of recognition from a house that, on Tuesday evening, was nearly three-fourths full.

A clever script with many allusions to pop culture of today and yesteryear provided easy fodder for this crew, and the music incorporated (everything from "Karma Chameleon" to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love") was also evocative.

One of this reviewer's favorite vignettes involved Elaine, an uptight single woman who had dreamt of her ideal mate and knew she would meet him on a Thursday night at a TGI Friday's if she only waited long enough.

"Barkeep, has there been a man with an accent in here tonight?" inquires Elaine, adorably played by Pennsylvania redhead Caroline Rhoads. When the seemingly right guy shows up, but his name is Diego instead of Pedro, one quickly sees no man will ever measure up to Elaine's irrational dream of romantic perfection.

Much laughter met this line, delivered by the geeky Paul to his blind date, Medea: "Like they say on Oprah, single women of a certain age struggle with a little anger."


The apparent audience favorites were the skits involving the hilarious "Ron," depicted by Charles Evans. A perpetual bachelor, Ron is forever the best man, never the groom (despite being an attractive brain surgeon) because of his high-octane, low-taste, jerky dance moves at the wedding dances he seems doomed to lead. His inability to simply slow-dance with the maids of honor at these events turns off all prospects, and Ron refuses to adjust his style to accommodate any woman.

Evans is hysterical dancing as Ron, dropping all inhibitions and letting himself appear completely ridiculous--and thus utterly convincing.

Costuming for "Maybe Baby, It's You" by OST student designer Sheila Hunter is mostly spot-on.

My companion for the evening and I, both parents of young teens, laughed in rueful recognition at the line that mentioned "lips as pouty as a teenager's on a family vacation."

This play was a great conversation-starter, and we easily filled the 40-minute drive home with discussion of wedding mistakes, wedding videos, old boyfriends and other such topics brought to mind by the show.

As funny and insightful as "Maybe Baby, It's You" is, it is interesting to contemplate how much more dramatic it might have been had it been written following playwright Shanian's 14-month marriage in 2004-05 to actress/celebrity Tori Spelling of "90210" fame. Apparently Spelling wasn't Shanian's soul mate, after all--or perhaps he didn't fulfill for her the truth lurking behind this line from the play: "Isn't that what we're supposed to be--people who make each other better?"

"Maybe Baby, It's You" runs at OST through Sunday. Next week, OST hosts its premiere of the regional comedy "Leaving Iowa."

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