No play could have tackled contemporary racial issues better than Tanya Barfield’s The Call. With only five actors and actresses and less than two hours, the concept of cross-cultural adoption was portrayed quite flawlessly.
The Call features a young American couple, Annie and Peter (Rachel Grandizio and Theo Couloumbis), who wish to adopt an African child due to their inability to conceive on their own.
This issue paired with the insecurities Annie faces for not being viewed by her mother as a perfect daughter creates a whirlwind of emotion that drives the performance forward. Accompanying Grandizio and Couloumbis on stage were Summer Brown, Alicia Grace, and Jamaal Amir McCray who play Rebecca, Drea, and Alemu, respectively. Rebecca and Drea portray an African-American lesbian couple, while Alemu, Annie and Peter’s new African neighbor, serves to fuel the play’s humor.
The opening scene was immediately verbose in an informative way. This aspect sometimes caused my focus to wander.
“Even though I’m not catching all of the plot points, I am following the storyline [because] their body movements and their facial expressions… allows me to follow,” freshman audience member Jessica Berman said.
In addition to the cast’s body language, a few expletives and mature humor served to refocus my attention.
Although there was a variety in character personalities, the interactions onstage appeared to be in complete harmony. Director Eleanor Holdridge, who has directed over 100 plays, wrote that “the age and situation of the characters versus the age of the actors posed a challenge.” However, due to the small size of the cast and the fact that they have been rehearsing together since Aug. 21, the actors were able to interact with one another very comfortably on stage. Alicia Grace, a junior who played Drea, said that this aspect created a very “homey” feel, “which is beneficial for this specific play that we’re doing because… we have to be able to cultivate this environment where conversation is necessary.”
It was evident that each of the actors deeply understood their characters. Grace said she could connect with Drea because they both possess the same cultural background and struggles, as black females. “Though [Drea] is telling Annie that her daughter will desire to have good hair…and will wonder as a child why she can’t get rid of the color of her skin, that is something I can relate to. I remember very vividly being six, being a young girl and wondering how I could lighten my skin.”
In addition to the attention-grabbing dialogue and the colorful characters, “the set design… [keeps] you involved and invested in the story,” as stated by Berman. Designed by Tyler Herald, the set drew people into the world of the performance. One audience member even remarked that she wished the living room on stage was her actual living room.
Most importantly, this production “tackles some really serious issues that people face who are contemplating adoption,” said audience member Laura Ruppalt, who is also a relative of actress Grandizio. “I appreciate that they’re willing to speak about them so candidly.”
“By talking about contemporary issues and really getting inside the story of a contemporary issue such as adopting a baby of a different race, it pulls heartstrings,” Berman said.
Along those same lines, Director Holdridge hoped that audience members leave with “a sense that we privileged Americans are part of a larger world to which we are, in part, responsible.”
Photos by Stan Barouh