Nori Tecosky (at top) and Lindsey Forgey play women in love in the world premiere of Kim Ehly's 'Baby GirL' at Empire Stage.
Kim Ehly, actor-turned-playwright, went to great lengths to bring her world premiere play Baby GirL
into the world. She dreamed it up in a writing workshop, wrote it as a long monologue, transformed it into a screenplay and now, after forming the Kutumba Theatre Project to present it, has brought it to life at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage.
Ehly’s vision, faith and persistence have paid off. Baby GirL
is sweet, funny, touching, unsettling, tender. It’s an artistic offspring that would make any playwright proud.
Doubling as director, Ehly delivers a fact-inspired, imaginative piece about a young lesbian named Ashley (Lindsey Forgey). Born to a teen mom, she is less than a month old when she’s adopted by Mary (Sally Bondi) and Dave (David R. Gordon), a way-square South Florida couple. Raised with bratty younger brother Ben (Clay Cartland), Ashley tries out a few boyfriends but discovers that girls get her pulse racing. Acknowledging her sexual orientation to herself and then to her judgmental folks, she embarks on a quest to discover something else about herself: Who was her biological mother? Baby GirL
is full of serious ideas and themes, not to mention inevitable flashes of pain when Ashley faces judgment and rejection. Yet for all its depth of feeling, Baby GirL
is a joyous celebration of one woman’s journey toward happiness.
Ehly’s writing and Forgey’s playfully appealing performance make Ashley pretty much irresistible. Forgey often breaks the fourth wall, narrating, explaining, commenting. When Ashley happily jumps on the sofa to make love to her girlfriend Melissa (Nori Tecosky), she pauses to note that she put off acknowledging the obvious to us, the audience, as long as possible, hoping that we’d like her so much by then that we’d keep going with the flow of her story. No worries – we do.
Ehly also gets strong work in multiple roles from the seven other actors in her cast. Bondi plays Ashley’s adoptive and birth mothers, the second a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for. Gordon is adoptive dad and bio mom’s second hubby. Cartland and Noah Levine are funny as they morph into a variety of characters, straight and gay, and Tecosky and Jessica Welch play various women in Ashley’s life. Miki Edelman gives a master class in versatility, playing a loving grandma, a bitter and suspicious aunt, and other distinctive women who help Ashley on her path to self-discovery.
Ehly makes a persuasive case for looking beyond blood bonds to find family in those who love us. And in Baby GirL
, she makes an impressive play-writing debut.