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Getting Near To Baby

Updated: May 20, 2022


I’m pleased to be able to tell you that getting near to baby has been adapted for the stage by acclaimed playwright Y York. It has been performed at the The People's Light and Theatre in Philly, and by The Seattle Children's Theatre, and by ohio

getting near to baby takes place in a town in the south in the 1920’s. The story focuses on two girls who live alone with their mother. Their life has recently been turned upside down after the death of their baby sister.

Requiring two male and 6 female parts, this play is available from Dramatic Publishing in Woodstock, IL, making it possible for your local theater or high school production to bring to your community.

Review: 'Getting Near to Baby' deals compassionately with a family's loss By Nancy Worssam

Special to The Seattle Times

By Y York, based on the novel by Audrey Couloumbis, Tuesdays-Sundays through April 18, Seattle Children's Theatre, 201 Thomas St., Seattle

Imagine that your baby sister has just died and you are immediately shipped off to an aunt who hasn't the foggiest idea about how to console, show love to, or please a child.

That's the fate of Willa Jo (played by Sylvie Davidson) and Little Sister (Catherine McCool) in the poignant and heartwarming "Getting Near to Baby." And director Rita Giomi's gifted cast gives full measure to former Seattle resident Y York's fine stage adaptation of Audrey Couloumbis' Newbery Honor book.

The girls' snobby Aunt Patty seems not to have a clue. For her, rules and cleanliness are far more important than compassion. She disdains the polite neighbor children, Liz (Amy Conant) and Isaac (Andrew Haggerty), because, with 14 people living in their house, they must be trash. Yet despite Aunt Patty, these kids manage to befriend the sisters and introduce them to the wonders of their playhouse/cave.

Aunt Patty would prefer the sisters to take charm lessons from the superficial, social-climbing Lucy Wainwright and her mean-spirited daughter Cynthia. Ellen McLain as Mrs. Wainwright is the embodiment of shallowness and priggishness. That she's a phony is evident to everyone but Aunt Patty.

Of course, there are lessons in this play. True values are those that involve respect for other people, and revere good character rather than airs or social status. And much to the delight of the young people in the audience, the play makes it clear that children sometimes do indeed know more than the adults in their lives — and they have their own way of working through life's tragedies.

Aunt Patty has a lot to learn about children and about values. In Anne Allgood's highly competent hands, this unsympathetic woman finally undergoes the character change the audience longs to see. Buried under that exterior there is someone who is capable of love, someone who also mourns the baby; Allgood makes her transformation believable.

But it takes a long time to occur, and, were it not for the understanding Uncle Hob, life would be even harder for the two sisters. You can't help loving Uncle Hob. Played with just-right down-home warmth by Todd Jefferson Moore, he offers a needed corrective to the social ineptness of his wife.

"Couloumbis deftly constructs an intricate montage of thoughts and memories from the perspective of 12-year-old Willa Jo Dean who, with Little Sister, mourns the death of their baby sister," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-14. (Aug.)

April 4, 2008

Getting Near To Baby: A Heartwarming Story

Theater: People's Light and Theatre in Malvern, PA

Opened: March 27, 2008 Reviewer: Pat McGill

The play takes place in a town in the south in the 1920’s. The story focuses on two girls who live alone with their mother. Their life has recently been turned upside down after the death of their baby sister. Their mother, who paints pictures for greeting cards, has resorted to just painting wild pictures and pictures of baby. There lifestyle has become unsanitary so the two girls Willa Jo and Little Sister go to live with their Uncle Hob and Aunt Patty.

Aunt Patty is a very strict person and likes things to go only her way. She sets out lots of rules for the girls and instantly there is conflict. After the death of baby, Little Sister won’t talk anymore and this really ticks off Aunt Patty. Uncle Hob also is constantly trying to make the girls happy while preserving some sanity in his wife. Throughout all this Willa Jo is also trying to make Little Sister talk and to be a good example for Aunt Patty so that Lucy Wainwright and her daughter Cynthia will approve. In the midst off all of this pressure the two girls find two friends that happen to be Aunt Patty’s neighbors, the Finger’s children, Liz and Isaac.

Well, life goes on in the town and many characters undergo transformations as well as realizations, all leading up to the shocking ending where…

This story is one of mourning, happiness, as well as acceptance. It is a fantastic story for any family and I greatly suggest you go and see it.

The cast is phenomenal! Including Nathaniel Brastow who played Isaac Finger, Maggie Fitzgerald who played Little Sister, Clare Inie-Richards who played Willa Jo, Katie Johantgen who played Liz Finger, Susan McKey who was Lucy Wainwright, Christopher Patrick Mullen who was Uncle Hob, Meg Rose who played Cynthia Wainwright, and Mary Elizabeth Scallen who played Aunt Patty, well directed by Abigail Adams.

All of the characters were fantastic but there are four that really deserve special mention. First is Maggie Fitzgerald who is only in sixth grade! She displays a stunning control over her emotions and her facial expressions, combined with her confidence and actions seeming to give the play a more natural feel and make it more “well rounded”.

Christopher Patrick Mullen as Uncle Hob displayed a fantastic stage presence as well as an amazing control over the situation changing the whole mood of the play from happy and easy going, to important and very serious in the blink of an eye. Finally the two tenth graders, Katie Johantgen and Claire Inie-Richards, both seemed to be far beyond their years in acting and overall stage performance really adding to the experience.

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