nytheatre.com review by Anthony Pennino
Alina Nelega’s Nascendo is
set in Romania in a maternity ward during the last days of the Ceaucescu
regime. The shift of Eastern European nations from totalitarian regimes
to nascent democracies and the resulting chaos for those societies has
provided a great deal of material for the dramatist. Timberlake
Wertenbaker with The Break of Day, David Edgar with Pentecost,
and, in particular, Caryl Churchill with Mad Forest have all
embraced this subject matter and penned artistically successful works.
Alas, Nelega and her play cannot be included with this august company.
August 15, 2002
Three women—Rita (Alexandra Price), Ina (Marissa Afton), and Dutza (Adile Istarki)—are all patients at the hospital. Rita, a gypsy, has already given birth to a boy at the start of the play. Ina, a more refined woman of Hungarian ancestry, is having complications with her pregnancy. And Dutza, a teacher, has her baby during the course of the play. They are tended to by Marta (Alice Spivak), a midwife, and Valentina (Addie Johnson), a doctor. When the coup against Ceaucescu begins, the ward is invaded by a Young Man (Lee Matthews). Is he a revolutionary? A mad man? A homeless vagabond? Or just a professional liar?
The play as written is muddled and overburdened with metaphor. Nelega frequently touches upon interesting ideas—such as Rita’s discovery that she can sell her child to a rich Westerner, or the ethnic rivalries between the women—but she never focuses on any long enough to be satisfying. Erica Kylander-Clark’s direction could have been a great deal tighter. The actors in general never convince that they are citizens of a dictatorship. Nonetheless, Istarki has some powerful moments of a mother in distress, and Johnson presents a realistic portrayal of one of the regime’s doctor/functionaries who has turned her heart to ice in order to continue to just do her job.