Be My Baby
This Second Star Productions work is clever as a TV sitcom, with the warmth of live action and evolving characters.
There is immense talent at 2nd Star Productions and when the company challenges themselves with a great script, as they did with My Fair Lady, the result is spectacular. When they work with weaker scripts, however, they cannot grow beyond the script limitation, Be My Baby is such a case.
Be My Baby tells the tale of an irascible Scotsman, an English lady, two immature young newlyweds and the adoption process that will bring a baby into their lives. The disdain between the Scotsman and the Englishwoman at the beginning of Be My Baby sends all the signals that, of course, these two will fall in love. The gimmick used to make that happen? They are to travel together to America to collect the adopted baby for the newlyweds. Immigration and health problems extend the trip. By the time the Scotsman and the Englishwoman return, they are in love and want to keep the baby. The newlyweds have conveniently decided they aren’t ready for a baby, so all live happily ever after.
There are so many plot contrivances in this play that it comes across more like a TV sitcom, a sense heightened by the countless short scenes, all requiring many scene changes. Astonishingly, there are 27 scenes averaging about four minutes each in Be My Baby.
The Scotsman, John Campbell, played by Fred Nelson (of Henry VIII fame at the Maryland Renaissance Festival for the past decade), is the best of the cast at attempting and maintaining a Scottish accent. At the beginning, he is a bit loud and overly commanding; by the end, his change to a softer, gentler man is very believable and quite charming.
The Englishwoman, Maud Kinch, played by Heather Tuckfield, is equally off-putting at the beginning. But like Nelson, she softens through the scenes and by the end projects an appealing character. So you root for Maud and John to be happy together.
The immature newlyweds are portrayed by Eric Small and Natalia Esteve. The contrived plot manipulates them in such contorted ways that it would be difficult to make the roles believable. Yet Small and Esteve work valiantly at it and Small, especially, finds some measure of success.
An intricate sound mix by Walter Kleinfelter covers the many scene changes. For those of that generation it is entertaining to hear 1960s’ tunes again. However, Be My Baby is specifically set between September 1963 and July 1964, and the music seemed both earlier and later than that very turbulent, fast-changing era. Similarly the costumes evoked more 1980s than 1960s.
Be My Baby does not give 2nd Star Productions the foundation of a good script. Attempting to realistically portray 17 different locales bogs down the work. Yet the actors, especially Nelson and Tuckfield, manage to make the audience care for their characters, and that brings a measure of success to Be My Baby.