Tiny Father Offers Great Heart at Barrington Stage
Theater, by its very nature, is a collaborative event. The playwright, director, actors, technical crew, and, of course, the audience all come together to create a moment in time. When two theatrical companies join forces to put together a project, it can be the best of many worlds and create a wonderful synergy. Such is the case with the co-world premiere of “Tiny Father,” which began its run at the Barrington Stage Company this week in collaboration with Chautauqua Theater Company.
The premise of the play, written by Mike Lew and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, is a captivating hour and a half of theater. Daniel, magnificently played by Andy Lucien, unexpectedly becomes the father of a baby girl born at 26 weeks. Daniel and the baby’s mother were nothing more than acquaintances and, as he explains, friends with benefits. She had no expectations of his involvement in the child’s life; for that matter, neither did he.
Life takes unexpected twists and turns, and Daniel is faced with the responsibility of caring for and raising this child. The play takes place over four months while Daniel visits his daughter in the neonatal intensive care unit and watches her struggle to survive. The only other onstage character we meet is Caroline, the NICU nurse assigned to care for the baby. Jennifer Ikeda handles the role of the nurse with the skill and finesse of an actually trained nurse.
Mike Lew has written a play filled with great humor and profound sadness and entrusted it to the hands of director von Stuelpnagel and performers Lucien and Ikeda. Together, the three have created a world so real and fraught with emotion that you immediately become captivated by the action before you. Throughout the show, we witness the two characters bond over this helpless child, going from being more than just a patient’s father and his baby’s nurse to becoming trusted allies. At times, they are at odds with each other, but ultimately, they form a bond, if not a friendship, as kindred spirits on a quest to help this child survive.
Lucien begins the show totally distraught and frustrated, and we watch him mature into a caring, loving parent. Ikeda portrays the emotionally detached nurse, there to do her job and perform it well while maintaining a bit of a steely shell so as not to become too emotionally attached to her patients or their families. Over time, we see that resolve chip away, and her humane side breaks through. Both actors have a wonderful sense of comedic timing, with Ikeda’s calm and straight-laced delivery contrasting Lucien’s frenetic pace. Both characters possess a certain sadness that allows us to see their humanity.
Wilson Chin has designed a wonderful set that allows the audience to peer into the window of the NICU, where all the action takes place. At first, you are uncertain whether you are looking through an actual oversized glass window or if it is another illusion. Alan C. Edwards’ lighting and Daniela Hart’s sound design and original music round out the perfectly presented feast for the senses.
Tilly Grimes has gone so far with the costume design as to dress the stage crew in hospital scrubs so that whenever they appear to modify the room, they appear as nurses simply carrying out their duties.
“Tiny Father” is an interesting play. It presents us with great sadness amidst wonderful humor. Andy Lucien and Jennifer Ikeda leave it all on the stage for the audience to soak up. It’s a play you won’t want to miss, as once again, Barrington Stage Company hits a home run with the third production of their summer season.
“Tiny Father” is on Barrington Stage Company’s Saint Germain Stage through July 22. For more information and tickets, visit www.barringtonstageco.org or call 413-236-8888.