Orlando Fringe Review: And Baby Makes 4
Tony (David Almeida) is a Southern self-schooled life coach who teaches titty-bar dancers to trust. Charissa (Marcie Schwalm) is frustrated freelance writer from Puerto Rico. Allen (Todd Allen Long) is a Bostonian actor juggling part-time roles at three theme parks. The mutually amorous trio — or “thrupple” — begins attending cut-rate couples counseling (it seems Obamacare still doesn’t cover real therapy) when they discover Charissa is pregnant … And Baby Makes 4.
The question of who caused the conception by poking holes in their condoms tears this modern family apart, and the bulk of writer-director Stephen J. Miller’s musical addresses issues of trust and responsibility in relationships, rather than the salacious details of their three-way sexcapades (though there’s more than a sprinkling of that, as well). Miller’s traditional musical pastiche melodies stir up a melange of ragtime, Irish and Latin flavors, making the the show a welcome respite from the rock/pop scores that dominate the Fringe. His music supports the kind of witty, sharply written lyrics we’ve come to expect from the author of past Fringe hits like Here Be Dragons.
The cast consists of local favorites with strong stage presences and solid inter-character chemistry, even if their unnecessary accents are inconsistent and they occasionally drift off-key. The plot, which Miller based on actual threesomes he interviewed, is thematically provocative and tonally unsettling, with goofy Central Florida-skewering humor butting up against an edgy exploration of the boundaries of emotional intimacy.
Conservatives who have not yet come on board with the concept of gay marriage ought to stay far away, lest they have a shock-induced aneurysm. Even those who embrace alternative families may find this one a little too alternative; afterward, I found myself struggling with what the ambiguously happy ending portends for the future stability of this unborn child’s upbringing. There are no easy answers — or easily embraceable characters — in And Baby Makes 4, but there is plenty of envelope-pushing food for thought.