Monday, April 22, 2013

Theater Review: The Call

Struggling to Wait for the Call -- and Confirmation that It's Really Life's Calling
By Lauren Yarger
Questions of race and motive come into play as a white couple seeks to adopt an African-American girl in Tanya Barfield’s thought-provoking play, The Call, running Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.

After years of trying to have a baby, Annie (Kerry Butler) and Peter (Kelly AuCoin) decide to adopt. They hope for a child from Africa, where Peter and his late friend, David, had served in a the Peace Corps. David’s sister and Annie’s best friend, Rebecca (Eisa Davis), isn’t sure that’s a great idea. Rebecca and her new spouse, Drea (Crystal A. Dickinson) both wonder whether the white couple truly understands the complexities of raising a black child, Yes, Auntie Rebecca can help do her hair in African-American styles, but will Annie ever really understand how a black daughter feels? And is she recovered enough from the depression that paralyzed her after the failed attempts to have a child of her own?

The discussion continues over several visits by Rebecca and Drea to the couple’s metropolitan apartment where new neighbor, Alemu (Russell G. Jones), is overjoyed to hear the news that Annie and Peter will be adopting from his homeland of Africa. He has some things, like medical supplies, shoes and other luxury items that people in his native home need and he wants the couple to take them when they travel to pick up their daughter. Jumping into the adoption commitment, Annie converts her art studio into a nursery even while she gets an offer of her first show at a gallery. While there, she gets "the call" from the adoption agency.

Suddenly doubts overwhelm her, especially when the couple is offered a 4-year-old the agency is trying to pass off as the toddler Annie and Peter had agreed to consider instead of an infant. The hesitation causes strain in the marriage, in which Peter seems always to be criticizing his wife any way. Rebecca proves a supportive friend even through her doubts, but harsh words and questions about how David really died threaten the friendships as well as the possibility of adopting.

Barfield’s script raises a lot of issues in a natural way (she handles exposition extremely well). Characters are multi-layered and strongly portrayed under the direction of Leigh Silverman. Dickinson, in particular, is a hoot as the plain-speaking Drea.

Rachel Hauck’s set rotates on an unnecessary revolving stage. It seems a bit overdone to take us from the living room to the nursery, for example, when other scenes are depicted simply. There’s also a dog park where Annie and Alemu meet on a bench and the art gallery opening is staged by rolling in a cart of wine glasses.

The Call has been extended through May 26 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC (between Ninth & Tenth avenues).

The performance schedule is Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm with additional Wednesday matinee performances on April 24 and May 1 at 2 pm. Tickets:;  212-279-4200. HOTtix, $25 rush tickets, subject to availability, day of performance only, starting one hour before showtime to patrons aged 30 and under. Proof of age required. One ticket per person, per purchase.

Christians might also like to know:
--Homosexual activity

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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