Bundt Cake, Boxes, and Getting the Call

This blog post is by Chelsey McLaughlin, a senior theatre major.

Photo by Stan Barouh

In each of our daily lives we possess different identities that both define our character and direct our paths.  Proudly exhibiting the labels of artists and innovators, the UMD cast of The Call by Tanya Barfield fearlessly embodies a wisdom beyond their years to explore the complexity involved in the intersectionality of human identities.  Motherhood, friendship, race and hair are just a few of the themes in The Call which affirm and challenge the identities of Annie and Peter: a white heterosexual couple who consider adopting from Africa to expand their family.  Already juggling emotions surrounding their hardship with infertility, the resolve of the couple is continually tested by the arrival and antics of their new neighbor Alemu from Africa.  When Alemu details events from his life and reveals a perspective not much different than Annie and Peter’s, the couple’s often ethnocentric view is unexpectedly challenged, as they realize many similarities between themselves and Africa— “the continent, not the country.”

Partaking in the joys and trials of Annie and Peter’s journey into parenthood—as well as many glasses of wine—are Annie and Peter’s close friends Rebecca and Drea: a newly-married African American lesbian couple.  Offering emotional support and sometimes biting commentary, Rebecca and Drea are integral to offering the support system needed to bridge the cultural divide that transracial adoption presents Annie and Peter.  The Call is a rich exploration into a bigger picture of hope and love that can conquer any obstacle—whether it be internal or external.

The simple beauty of the set design accents the geometrically shaped walls and the pieces of furniture whose neutral palette give off a cozy sense of ease— a welcome contrast to the play's action.  Adding a sense of immediacy and energy to the story is the smooth, timely movements of various set pieces onto and around the stage through the assistance of a mechanical system, which physically transports the characters in and out of the central focus of the audience.  Flawlessly tying together a revolutionary set and magnificent actors are the costumes which are themselves modern art.  Vibrant hues and glittering jewelry juxtapose the warm red and orange abstract painting hanging conspicuously in the background of the set: presumably echoing the importance of art to lives of artists Annie and Drea and reinforcing the universal love these friends share.    

A nod to the excellence of Tanya Barfield’s writing and to the brilliance of director Eleanor Holdridge’s execution, UMD’s first 2016-2017 season production uses humor and warmth to cycle through a broad spectrum of human emotions.