“The Alien Baby Play”
by Nicholas Walker Herbert
produced by Tutto Theatre Company
runs January 20 – 22, 2012 at a private residence in Westlake,
and January 24, 28, 29 and February 5, 2012 at Salvage Vanguard Theater,
Austin, Texas as part of Fronterafest Longfringe series.
I arrived after dark at the fancy Westlake home, Google maps making it easy to find, and I was welcomed and embraced by Austin/Southern hospitality like I was coming home from some nameless war. After five minutes the crowd of about 20 folks felt and acted like old friends, and the living room held us all comfortably. Without warning, we were joined by a nervous, immensely pregnant woman, gravid beyond gravity, who thanked us for coming and told us this utterly convincing story of her abduction and impregnation by an alien named Gabe. She would need all our help in giving home birth to this alien’s baby she had been carrying for fifteen months.
Alright. The hospitable warmth cooled around the edges a bit. I had that unsettled feeling most people have when they are near someone they have just now realized is delusional. But is she really delusional? Our heartstrings were tugged by this young girl who was stuck in a bad situation. And that’s bad in the bad sense of bad. Like all good little primates who got eaten by the jaguar, our curiosity overcame our fear and we all stayed to the end, listening to Bethany’s stories, helping her off the floor when the contraction pangs struck like lightning bolts, and munching her cookies, bell peppers and gum drops. The celery stalk she pulled from her bosom she reserved for herself, thank you.
This evening was a theatrical treasure, with Bethany played by Kathleen Fletcher in a one-woman tour de force. The local weekly tabloid called this year’s Fronterafest a promising anthology of one-person performances, and “The Alien Baby Play” must, by any measure, be considered one of its foremost offerings. Kathleen Fletcher is a native Austinite and actor who is a singing-dancing-acting triple-threat as Broadway measures these things, and, logically, that is where she now resides and pursues her performing arts career. “The Alien Baby Play” was written by Nicolas Walker Herbert, an emerging American playwright (and director and actor), who penned the play expressly for Fletcher. This is truly a rare conjunction of stars. When Tutto Artistic Director Gary Jaffe found out about the collaboration, he insisted that Tutto Theatre Company produce it. The rest, everyone hopes, will be theatre history. Deservedly so.
But what was the play about, really? It resolved some of its mysteries and left others tantalizingly mysterious. Was it about a new Messiah, or maybe the first? The play skipped over The Annunciation and went to an angel telling Joseph not to set aside his wife, thoroughly second-classing the Virgin Mary. Several world religions tell of avatars, messengers arriving on earth through matings of divine beings and human beings. On a more human level, we can see the isolated and frail Bethany struggling in her human way to bring back her deceased mother, or retrieve her father from falling down the bottomless well of Alzheimer’s. And then there’s Charlie. I won’t tell you about Charlie; I’ll leave it to Bethany to tell you perhaps the best contemporary story about guilt, compassion, inflicted traumas and struggled healings.
All the stories were wrenching, connecting with our own lives in some way, until Bethany’s stories became our stories and we lapsed into our own memories and reflections. Toward the very end, I turned and looked out the French windows and saw a bright light in the night sky. It seemed to glide, approaching. In that brief moment before I heard the faint whir of the law enforcement helicopter, I thought transcendence was appearing. Coming for me. Coming for her. Coming for us all.