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BWW Reviews: REBORNING Stuns in Its Brilliant Execution of Its Strange, Unsettling Subject

Reborning/written by Zayd Dohrn/directed by Simon Levy/The Fountain Theatre/thru March 15, 2015

Playwright Zayd Dohrn dazzlingly attacks, dissects and vividly presents the unusual concept of reborn dolls in the Fountain Theatre's powerfully, intriguing Los Angeles premiere of his Reborning. Simon Levy firmly directs his very talented cast of three in navigating this eerie, but involving story of a doll maker/sculptor Kelly; her lover Daizy, a sculptor of other objects; and her over demanding client Emily. Kelly has the artistry for recreating baby dolls in the likeness of whatever still photos are given to her. The reasons for purchasing these reborn dolls range from simple collectibles to memorializing real babies gone. Emily's exacting specifications for her doll named Eva brings up a variety of deep-seated issues for both the customer and its creator.

Reborning opens with Kelly at her workbench sculpting Eva with a large screen centerstage showing a prerecorded tape of Kelly sewing on Eva's eyebrows. Or is this a live cam shot? Matt Schleicher's innovative and ingenuous use of combining live cam video of the very realistic Eva doll (created by Amy Karich) with prerecorded videos of actual human babies achieve their maximum intended effect. Brilliant! And as always in a Fountain Theatre production, set designs detailed and totally appropriate. This time credit goes to set designer Jeff McLaughlin and set dresser Misty Carlisle.

Dohrn's in-your-face, razor-sharp, witty script receives expert delivery by its spot-on cast. Joanna Strapp inhabits her Kelly, a total emotional mess of a person, almost succeeding at keeping it all together. Strapp makes it very easy to empathize with Kelly's pain, her obsession, her confusion. Kristin Carey impecably plays her Emily as a not-quite-all-there, successful lawyer. Though Emily states, she's not one to send back a steak that's not cooked to her order; she refuses to except Eva as Kelly has completed. Emily wants Eva even more lifelike, and she's willing to pay more for it. Kelly has done what she herself considers her best work on Eva, but tries to appease her most exacting customer.

Ryan Doucette possesses the optimum combination of comic levity and serious truthfulness as Daizy, Kelly's lover and actual sculpting teacher. (Very credible chemistry between Doucette and Strapp!) Ironic, that Daizy's specialty jump started Kelly in hers. Kelly learn to master the veins and skin textures for her realistic dolls from working on Daizy's realistically human dildos. (BTW, if you're one to be offended by dildos, this show will not be for you.)

In the process of making Eva even more lifelike, Kelly becomes emotionally attached to her creation, something she's never apparently done before. All the riveting actions ensuing somehow make sense in this disturbing, extremely thought-provoking 75-minutes. Bravo to All involved!

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