BWW Reviews: For the Love of a Child
Parents do not have to be told to provide unconditional love and care to the children they bring into this world, nor do they have to be reminded of the treasure they covet when these children bring mostly joy and laughter into a home that once belonged only to them. Even though much of their lifestyle has been drastically changed because of these treasures, as all attention and responsibility is now directed at their wellbeing, this love cannot be disputed as something other than beautiful. Now, does the same hold true when a child is not one's own? After seeing the opening night performance of The Sun Shines East at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre, there is little doubt as to this holding true, and the struggle of one couple to adopt a baby, to whom they have already given their undying love and affection upon first holding her, makes for a beautiful, heartfelt story that deems the presence of children in our lives that much more precious.
Presented by Shining East Productions and directed by Pat Golden, The Sun Shines East is based on a true story - that of the show's playwright, Corinne Chateau, and her husband Bryan Hickey - that was previously documented by Chateau in her book, The Road to Cali, a Journey to Motherhood. Both also serve as co-producers of this production. This being a true story not only makes the play that much more poignant, but it also proves that there are certain people in this world that are willing to go above and beyond for the sake of another, especially for a child not even their own.
This is so comforting to know, as many people cannot fathom going through such difficulty, both mental and physical, to bring a child home and provide it with the love it may never have otherwise received. Such stories certainly deserve to be shared with others, as Corinne's and Bryan's experiences are so farfetched and incredible, especially in a world where everything is fast paced and instant; having to wait for or anticipate everything is not what everyone these days is about. This couple's story certainly deserves to be shared with the world, and Chateau's choice to not only write about her endeavor to adopt a child, but then present it on stage before an audience in this particular style, is just so different; I have never really seen it done before.
The Sun Shines East, set in the 1990's, tells the story of Christine (played by the very emotional Amy Staats) and her husband Robert (Bristol Pomeroy) who, after trying many times to have a child, ultimately decide it is best for them to adopt. Christine chooses an agency that will help them in their quest to find a child, and stumbles upon Dodo (Karen Christie-Ward), the woman who has found them a little girl in the Republic of Georgia to bring home. Christine is beyond happy, yet throughout the play becomes incredibly unsure about whether raising a child is truly something she would like to do. Her husband is clearly less enthused about this than she is, and as they are both actors, it would be increasingly difficult to either to take time off from their busy schedules to take care of a baby. Christine decides that she is ready for this child, as she may never have one of her own. So, husband and wife set off for Georgia, see baby "Claire," and are incredibly eager to return home with her.
Unfortunately, the country has just come out of civil war, and with an unstable government with its impending laws that can potentially ban international adoptions, Christine and Robert are unaware of the devastating struggles they will have to face in order to take this sickly baby away from her home country. (Just to put this in a clearer context, international adoptions from the Republic of Georgia were banned by President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1997, only to be overruled in 2003 and then brought back by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 to ban only U.S. adoptions.) Gradually, though, the couple is able to adopt baby Claire, and even Christine's mother (Mary Francina Golden) decides to begin the process of reconciliation with her estranged daughter. This story does have its happy ending.
Ukrainian-American actress Tara Gadomski also stars in this production.
Now, when I said before that the foundation of this show is quite different from other plays based on actual and/or personal events, what do I mean by a different style? Well, just to observe the basic structure of this play and all this story consists of doesn't make a person think of this story as a whole, but instead in increments - small pieces that, when placed together, create a great play on so many levels. Firstly, just think of how eerie a feeling it must be for the playwright to be in the audience on any performance day, watching her life acted out by others who can only begin to comprehend what this couple had to endure in order to guarantee that its child would finally come home. Although /Chateau originally adopted a baby boy instead of a girl, what is depicted upon that stage isn't any less accurate or affecting; indeed, watching exactly what happened unfold on stage would hardly make this a dramatic play, and would be more like watching a flashback instead of portraying the mental anguish experienced when adopting this child.