BWW Review: World Premiere of MIDWIVES at George Street Playhouse-An Engrossing Drama
"How we come into this world means more than anything else."
by Sybil in Midwives
The world premiere of Midwives is now being performed by George Street Playhouse (GSP) in the Arthur Laurents Theater of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC). This engrossing, heart rending drama is based on the 1998 novel by Chris Bohjalian who wrote GSP's stage adaptation. Midwives was a New York Times bestselling novel, an early selection for Oprah's Book Club, and it was adapted as a film in 2001. The fine playwriting by Bohjalian, the directorial talents of the Playhouse's Artistic Director, David Saint, and the show's accomplished cast make this play unforgettable.
Set in Vermont in 1985, a young black couple, Charlotte Fugett Bedford and her preacher husband, Asa Bedford have recently moved from Georgia to Vermont to lead a local church congregation. They are having a home birth for their second child attended to by experienced midwife, Sybil and her apprentice, Anne. The situation turns calamitous when the expectant mother has medical complications and the horrid weather makes it impossible to transport her to a hospital. When Charlotte shows no signs of life, Sybil decides to perform an emergency cesarean section to save the baby. Her apprentice disputes her judgment and reports her to the authorities causing Sybil to be charged with manslaughter in the death of Charlotte. The story continues with a contentious courtroom trial where both the prosecution and the defense present compelling arguments. The` tale is told through the eyes of Sybil's loving adult daughter, Connie who is in the process of becoming an OB/GYN.
The GSP cast captures all of the tension and the tragedy of Bohjalian's complex story. The company is led by Ellen McLaughlin as the dedicated midwife, Sybil Danforth. She is joined by John Bolger, a GSP favorite, as Sybil's husband Rand Danforth. The company also includes Molly Carden as Connie Danforth; Grace Experience as Anne Austin; Monique Robinson as Charlotte Fugett Bedford; Ryan George as Asa Bedford; Michael Cullen as Judge Howard Dorset/Dr. Terry Tierney; Armand Schultz as Bill Tanner; and Lee Sellars as Stephen Hastings.
The emotional scenes in Midwives will keep you on the edge of their seat. Some of the particularly gripping moments include Charlotte conceding that she can no longer push; Sybil finding that the phone lines aren't working; Anne's complete panic during the delivery; Connie reading from her mother's well-kept journals; Bill Tanner explaining the necessity for the case against Sybil to Asa; Rand expressing steadfast support for his wife during her trial; the courtroom examination of Sybil; Judge Dorset dismissing Sybil's journals as evidence; and Stephen Hastings fiery defense of his client.
The Creative Team has done a great job of bringing the play's rustic Vermont setting to the stage. They include set design by Shoko Kambara; lighting design by David Lander; sound design by Scott Killian; costume design by Lisa Zinni; original music and sound design by Scott Killian; hair and wig design by Charles G. Lapointe. The Production Manager is Christopher J. Bailey; Stage Manager, Samantha Flint; Action Coordinator, Rick Sordelet; and Casting is by McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
GSP's production of Chris Bohjalian's page-turner, Midwives is a thought provoking play about family, lifestyles, social responsibility, professional choices, and so much more. Metro area audiences will certainly be engaged by this distinctive theatrical experience.
Midwives will be on stage at George Street Playhouse through February 16. The run time is 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission. The Playhouse is located in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center at 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. It is in the heart of the city's restaurant and theatre district with convenient parking available. For ticketing and more information, please visit https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/ or call Patron Services at 732.246.7717.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson