BWW Reviews: SMUDGE - A Dark, Wonderfully Acted, and Bizarre Comedy

BWW Reviews: SMUDGE - A Dark, Wonderfully Acted, and Bizarre Comedy

"Smudge," which opened recently at Greenville's Centre Stage, has got to be one of the most bizarre plays I've ever seen: a dark comedy-drama-horror story by Rachel Axler about a couple who've just had a baby.

Or is it a monster? Or something in between?

I wanted to invite the entire audience out for pizza so we could discuss the play.

"Smudge," part of Centre Stage's excellent Fringe Series, is briskly directed by Maegan Azar and splendidly acted by a three-person local cast.

I admit, however, that I often felt flummoxed by playwright Axler's intentions. Even so, the play is frequently funny, fleetingly poignant and, in a scene or two, blood-curdling.

Colby and her husband Nick have just had a baby.

It appears, however, that there were complications.

The baby, who the audience never sees, lives in a carriage looped with tubes. A relentless and ominous beeping sound, meanwhile, suggests a heart monitor.

Nick adores the one-eyed baby he names Cassandra - Cassie for short.

Colby, meanwhile, calls the baby "thing," "it," "creature," "freak" and "smudge."

Azar, in a director's note, says that "Smudge" is an absurdist comedy about "the difficulties that a couple faces when life doesn't meet expectations."

Axler, a former writer for "The Daily Show" who now works on the popular TV series "Parks and Recreation," taps into a soon-to-be parent's worst fear: that everything will turn out horribly.

Axler also may be making a statement about how the birth of a child can prompt sharply contrasting reactions from parents. In addition, the play seems to touch on such issues as postpartum depression and society's callous attitude toward the disabled.

The cast is superb. Katrina Gass (as Colby) and Jason Adkins (Nick) inhabit their roles so naturally that the "acting" completely disappears.

The two make an inherently funny pair: The tall, lanky Adkins towers over the petite Gass.

Stephen Boatright, meanwhile, plays Nick's wise-cracking brother Pete with antic, restless energy.

Centre Stage's Fringe Series is designed to challenge an audience with edgy, offbeat plays - and "Smudge" certainly fulfills that goal.

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Paul Hyde Paul Hyde, a longtime journalist, currently serves as the Arts Writer with The Greenville (S.C.) News and Southeast Editor of the website Classical Voice North America. Paul was an editorial writer/columnist with The Greenville News for nine years. He has held many other positions in journalism, including reporter, photographer, editor of a small-town newspaper, editor of a monthly arts journal, and editorial page editor of The Anderson Independent-Mail. His articles and commentaries have appeared in a variety of newspapers, including USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, Houston Post and Dallas Morning News. A native of Houston, Paul has enjoyed a lively second career as a singer, actor, conductor and stage director.

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