InterAct Theatre Company's 20/20 New Play Commission Program will present 20 new plays over the next six seasons; the bold project is to produce plays dealing with issues likely to be the social challenges of the next 20 years. Michael Whistler's
, under Seth Rozin's direction, is the inaugural drama, and it is stuffed full of issues; we can only hope that the next 19 will be better - both as theater and as sociopolitical commentary.
Little Lamb starts with the first of its several homilies: An unidentified woman (Cathy Simpson) - who will puzzlingly not reappear until the middle of Act II - sits on a stool and recounts the Bible story of Queen Esther, interpreting the story of the young woman who saves the Jews from annihilation as a tale not of her courage but merely of her role as a divine instrument: "God has a plan for each of us."
This will become an allegory for Ashlee (Katrina Yvette Cooper), a young African American woman who gives up her baby for adoption to a white man and then changes her mind. The implication seems to be that she is rescuing her black baby - representative of her people - from racial erasure.
Cathy (Kaci M. Fannin) runs an adoption agency specializing in "transracial" adoption, despite the fact that she is deeply opposed to the notion. Denny (the over-emoting Ames Adamson) is a gay man, successful and prosperous; he and his partner, Jose (the always subtle Frank X), have long wanted to adopt a child, and Cathy arranges for their adoption of Ashlee's baby.
That Denny seems to be a "trivial" person, as Cathy calls him, mad about Ethel Merman and "The Three Bears" and redecorating projects, who drinks too much and neglects to read the adoption papers, is likely to offend even the most extreme devotees of Denny's passions in the audience. Despite his long sermon about the profound need gay boys have for songs about joy, we never have enough information about him to change our minds about his childishness. Why Cathy changes her mind and agrees to the adoption is unclear.
Jose is the sensible, mature partner whose character is entirely undeveloped; it seems to matter that he's Latino, but why? And what does he do all day? Why did he give up his career as a singer? There is nothing here to make these men real. His long bedtime story about God creating man because he was lonely goes nowhere; it just sounds important.
When Ashlee shows up months after the adoption wanting her baby back, she is under the manipulative, controlling influence of her baby's father's mother (Simpson is convincingly smug and self-righteous), who uses Christianity as a bludgeon to outmaneuver the system. With no DNA testing and no sign of the absent father, the already illogical plot becomes preposterous.
The issues of gay adoption, transracial adoption, fundamentalist Christianity vs. atheism, absent black fathers, and African heritage are all interesting and important topics, and they deserve more than Little Lamb gives them.