An unseen infant is the driving force behind Jane Anderson's sad, funny, touching and cruel saga of two couples who negotiate the ownership of the ultimate commodity -- a life. Rep ensemble the American Renegade Theatre Co. has mounted a powerful production, thanks to a talented cast under the insightful guidance of director Jessica Kubzansky.

An unseen infant is the driving force behind Jane Anderson’s sad, funny, touching and cruel saga of two couples who negotiate the ownership of the ultimate commodity — a life. Rep ensemble the American Renegade Theatre Co. has mounted a powerful production, thanks to a talented cast under the insightful guidance of director Jessica Kubzansky.

Kubzansky keeps precisely the right balance of intensity among the ensemble, while always highlighting the center of the action.

The two women, poverty-stricken but ever-pregnant Wanda (Tammy Kaitz) and wealthy but barren Rachel (Janet Wood), dominate the first act.

In Wanda’s pitiful Louisiana trailer park home during the last months of her pregnancy, the two women struggle to bridge their cultural differences to achieve their goal: Wanda, already the mother of four, cannot afford to keep another child, and Rachel must buy her way into motherhood.

Kaitz is a marvelously complex Wanda who, though intimidated by the wealthy Rachel and dominated by her own volatile husband, still exudes a deep-rooted sense of stability and integrity.

Wood’s Rachel is a perfect counterbalance. She wears Rachel’s new-age sophistication like fragile armor that eventually crumbles under the weight of events that befall her.

The second act, set in Wanda’s stark and antiseptic hospital room on the day of delivery, belongs to the men. Neither Wanda’s redneck husband Al (Paul Gunning) nor Rachel’s yuppie spouse Richard (Noel Webb) have any control over what should be the most important moment in a man’s life, so they rage at one another over contractual details. Refereeing is Richard’s baby-broker attorney Ron (Kevin James O’Neill).

Gunning’s Al is an intensely sexual, lowlife charmer with a laser-like concentration, whether he’s appreciating Rachel’s bosom or scrutinizing the fine points of a contract.

Webb is dead-on as the frustrated, middle-class parent-to-be who is driven to keep trying to negotiate for the perfect baby. O’Neill is properly congenial and bloodless as attorney Ron.

Webb performs double duty as composer and violinist. His recorded incidental music offers a haunting underscoring to the play.

High marks also go to the economic but effective set and lighting designs by Brandi Jones and Patrick Welborn, respectively.

The Baby Dance

American Renegade Theatre, North Hollywood; 45 seats; $12 top

Production

The American Renegade Theatre presents a play in two acts by Jane Anderson; director, Jessica Kubzansky; producers, Tammy Kaitz, Janet Wood; production design, Brandi Jones.

Creative

Lighting, Patrick Welborn; original music composed and violin played by Noel Webb; sound design, Donald H. Peterson Jr. Opened Sept. 23 , 1994; reviewed Sept. 24; runs through Oct. 30. Running time: 1 hour, 50 min.

Cast

Wanda - Tammy Kaitz
Al - Paul Gunning
Rachel - Janet Wood
Richard - Noel Webb
Ron - Kevin James O'Neill
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