Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Lots of people adopt children and for lots of reasons. For some it’s to complete a “family”, for others because natural attempts have failed, and for still others a sense of duty may motivate the decision. Such is the crux of Tanya Barfield’s The Call, which opened Friday at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Multiple issues emerge in this story. Foremost is the matter of adoption. Annie (Farrell Tatum) and Peter (Lucas Moquin) are a white middle class couple. They have tried for years to have a child of their own. Nearing middle age, they have come to the decision to adopt an infant and have found a pregnant mother looking for adoptive parents for her unborn baby.
Tatum brings a wonderful fullness of angst and concern to this role. She is able to swing from elation to worry to irritation and back to calm. The tension that builds between her and Moquin is palpable.
They first reveal their intentions to adopt to their best friends, a black lesbian married couple played wonderfully by Rusharra Euwing as Rebecca and Alexis Harvey as Drea. These two have just returned from a trip to Africa and the conversation about their adventures is both comical and unsettling to Annie.
Before long, Annie is expressing her second thoughts about taking a baby “from her mother’s arms”, and the idea of adopting a motherless child from Africa takes over. This is “the call” – to become a biracial family, to rescue a child from poverty, to do a good thing.
Soon, their African neighbor, an American educated engineer named Alemu (Kenyatta DeEtt) learns of their decision and begins to offer help and friendship – much to Annie’s dismay. DeEtt is charming and affable in this role, but this disturbs his neighbor.
Things begin to unravel when they discover that the child they have been granted is not an infant. Described as two and a half years old, she appears to be closer to four in the picture provided by the agency. Tatun and Moquin grow and change masterfully through this piece as their initial ease and ambiance with each other develops a slowly growing rift.
As for Euwing and Harvey, they are a likeable duo, clearly content with their union and their life. Things only get testy when their good friends begin to change and even alienate their efforts to stay involved with the adoption process.
Director Andrew Morton has taken on an interesting challenge with The Call. It raises issues of race relations, gay marriage, and insidiously, white privilege. It explores the definition of marriage from a variety of viewpoints considering such aspects as just what constitutes a marriage and its completeness.
To add to the uniqueness Morton has placed the audience right on stage for this production. We felt like we were in Annie and Peter’s well-appointed apartment – and we nearly were. This proximity all but destroyed the fourth wall; we were involved, not simply watching.
Ultimately, Annie and Peter explore and consider every reason for canceling the adoption. Some of their issues will be unexpected, but all will be enlightening. And the ending may surprise you.
The Call continues at UM-Flint Theatre January 30 and February 5-6 at 7:30 pm, and January 31 and February 7 at 2:00 pm. Space is limited so call for tickets at 810-237-6520. More information is available online at umflint.edu/theatredance