Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Pictured: Taylor Raye, Anna Rose Ii-Epstein Samantha Michelle Nava, and Shalyn Welch. Photo by Christopher Semel.
THE KID THING at Nothing Without A Company
By Kelsey McGrath
Nothing Without a Company’s THE KID THING is an embossed invitation. It is a key to a diary. It is a fission. And as with embossed invitations, you feel the ridges of the words, every raised loop and line. THE KID THING is an invitation into “the dynamics of a queer family who is struggling with the idea of becoming parents in a world that seems to be fighting against them in every way imaginable.” Through Sarah Gubbins’ play, the audience begins to feel and understand the intimacy of these ridges, of this pressure. Like the signature at the bottom of a letter. And we have no choice but to share in this celebration.
Nothing Without a Company is a “site specific” company and, at Edgewater’s Berger Mansion, this cements our voyeuristic involvement with the story. We’re in the living room of Darcy and Leigh, a queer couple taking on the life-changing decision of child rearing, inspired by their queer friends, Nate and Margot. Action and dialogue focus on the logistical and emotional realities of this procedure for a queer couple in 2009 USA. The play dismantles the nuclear family in fascinating, honest ways, and the result is “human af.” It also draws endearing parallels of concerns with bringing a child into the world. These tiny fissions compel the audience, challenging boundaries of empathy. We are introduced to a generally unfamiliar form of pain and uncertainty; this is what makes the play urgent.
Kudos to Nothing Without A Company, as this is their first published work. Lifting up and normalizing the stories of underrepresented folks is paramount, and THE KID THING takes on this role in a mindful way.
This production handles the text with a rooted and heartfelt finesse. While there is space for the on-stage discussion to become moralistic, the players remain grounded. It is clear that attitudes of non-judgement and love were brought to the development of these characters’ humanity.
Director Jake Fruend handles the show with the audience in mind. We are encompassed with theatrical novelty in set and blocking as he and production designer Alaina Moore transport us to Darcy and Leigh’s Chicago apartment. The research, hard work, and bold choices interplay to move the audience. We are invited in and we say YES.
Authentic performances by the players breathe real life into Gubbins’ words. Samantha Michelle Nava plays a lively and endearing Leigh. Anna Rose Ii-Epstein’s Nate mirrors the enthusiasm of an expectant parent in love, but also brings a rich complexity to the archetype. Taylor Raye offers a stark and delicious contrast to her partner as the regal and academic Margot. A notable performance by Chicago newcomer Shalyn Welch as Darcy heartbreakingly captures Darcy’s tumultuous spectrum of guardedness, goodness, acerbic wit, and vulnerability with an open heart and a demanding physicality. Rounding out the ensemble is Gabriel Fries’ tantalizing “peace worker” and sperm donor, Jake. The group’s rapport is as though they’ve known each other for ages. Playing to the audience in their living room, this energy is palpable.
I cannot rave enough about this show. The environmental and emotional intimacy of THE KID THING impacts the audience as we journey the ridges of these characters’ loops and lines. RSVP to this invitation. You’ll leave with so much more than a treat bag or a puppy.
THE KID THING runs through April 15th.