Theater Review: Babel

Lucy Lavely and Rachel Moulton. Photo by John Jones.
Lucy Lavely and Rachel Moulton. Photo by John Jones.
Dennis "Mitch" Maley
SARASOTA — Florida Studio Theatre kicked off its 2023 Stage III Series on Friday night with Jacqueline Goldfinger's dark comedy Babel, which imagines a near future in which Americans are urged to consider eugenics for the sake of limited resources.

In the world of Babel, water and food insecurity have led to a process in which prospective parents undergo genetic testing to find out what their child's genes are likely to mean in terms of the kind of people they will be. The hope is that their child gets "pre-certified." If they do not, the state encourages couples to terminate their pregnancy.

Renee and Dani are a same-sex couple with their fingers crossed that their fetus will pass muster, while their friends, Ann and Jamie, are eagerly hoping for their own pregnancy. When one couple gets good news and the other does not, it challenges relationships, loyalties, and even sanity on all fronts.

Babel brings us the return of Lucy Lavely, an Asolo Conservatory alum who, as a senior in the prestigious grad program, gave a breathtaking performance in the Asolo Rep's stellar 2014 production of Other Desert Cities (review) and again in Chicken Shop, the maiden voyage for Urbanite Theatre in 2015 (review). 

The New York-based Lavely once again lights up the stage as Ann, whose manic obsession with having the PERFECT child illuminates the high-stakes world in which couples must approach the seminal act of humankind. In an almost frighteningly-riveting performance, Rachel Moulton all but breaks the intensity dial as Dani, a hyper type A who makes Ann seem near subdued by comparison, and a confrontation between the two characters is electrified with a level of dramatic tension rarely achieved.

Anique Clements provides both the balance to that energy and the story's conscience in a moving performance as Renee, while Tom Patterson excels as both Jamie and "the Stork," a clever plot device brilliantly executed by Goldfinger.

Babel rolls like a freight train through its approximately 75-minute, no-intermission run time, which is good, because this play is certain to spark lengthy and interesting conversations between theatergoers both young and old. It runs in FST's intimate Bowne's Lab Theatre through Feb. 10, as part of a rolling world premiere with the National New Play Network. Click here for ticket information.