Doll drama ‘Reborning’ at Delray Arts Garage examines parents’ loss

For those who thought the Arts Garage’s season-opening theater production, “Sex with Strangers,” was kind of kinky and creepy, wait until you see its next one.

“Reborning,” a psychological thriller by Zayd Dohrn, son of 1960s Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, revolves around the hyper-realistic dolls acquired by parents to help them adjust to the loss of their children.

The three-member cast first heard of reborning dolls from the script of “Reborning,” but director Keith Garsson’s initial encounter with one was at Boca Raton’s Town Center Mall. Its owner had left it in a baby carriage as she went into a store to shop.

“It took me a minute to realize that was not a real baby,” says Garsson. “As I was staring at it, somebody said to me, ‘Yeah, creepy.’ ”

He later surfed the Internet and not only learned about the reborning doll phenomenon, but also that there was a play on the subject. In it, Kelly (Elizabeth Price) and Daizy (Nicholas Wilder) are married artists who live in Queens. Her specialty is crafting reborning dolls and one day a mysterious woman named Emily (Deborah Kondelik) enters Kelly’s life, commissioning her to make a very specific doll.

What happens beyond that, the cast would rather not say. “There are surprises along the way. It keeps you guessing and I think by the end, you’re still guessing, which I like,” says Price.

“It twists as it unfolds,” adds Kondelik. “It’s a real roller coaster. I love dark, unique, character-driven stuff like this.”

Arts Garage audiences are likely to be fascinated by the reborning dolls, but director Garsson wants them to look beyond the inanimate child surrogates. “I hope people will come away talking about the emotional impact the reborning dolls have on the characters,” he says.

He chose the script, which is receiving its Southeastern Florida premiere, because, “Number one and most importantly, it’s something the audience will not have seen before. Number two, it’s a great story. And number three, it bridges the generations,” explains Garsson. “It has an element to it that the traditional theater audience these days can appreciate, but the story itself reaches out to the next generation. The generation we were able to capture with ‘Sex with Strangers.’ ”

The director says the play’s tone reminds him of works by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter. “The appeal for me is the Pinteresque quality, that everything seems fine and then the menace arrives,” he says.

“I like the juxtaposition of the highly dramatic with the comedic,” adds Kondelik. “It’s funny sometimes, but it’s not, y’know?”

“The title ‘Reborning’ – like most great titles – has a concrete definition and then an abstract one,” says Garsson. “All of the characters are, at some point, reborn. In small ways and large. And one of the reborning dolls in particular is the catalyst for that.”

The director and cast apologize for being purposely vague, but they are very protective of the unexpected turns in “Reborning.”

“It an exciting night at the theater that takes you to places you don’t expect with characters who are intriguing,” says Price. “What more could you want?”

* * *

Remember Columbine? … The 1999 shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado was so many senseless gun attacks ago that it has faded in many people’s memories. But Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli wrote a play about the bloody incident, “columbinus,” and Bob Carter’s Actor’s Workshop & Repertory Company will be producing it on the weekends from Jan. 29 through Feb. 7, at the Bhetty Waldron Theatre in West Palm Beach.

The play, which looks at “the psychological warfare of alienation, hostility and social pressure,” is cast entirely with drama students from local high schools. A talk back, with the cast and director, will follow each performance. Call 561-301-2588 for more information or reservations.

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