The Women's Project Pushes Out the Black Comedy, Smudge

Examining a sonogram scan, Colby (Cassie Beck) and Nicholas (Greg Keller) seem perplexed. "Maybe it's upside-down," Colby suggests. "Maybe it's just smudged." Smudge, Rachel Axler's black comedy about parenthood, is similarly indistinct. Though it flirts with satire and absurdism, it ultimately settles for a disappointingly conservative resolution.

Colby delivers a severely misshapen baby, a purplish girl possessed of no arms and a single vestigial leg. Nick is fascinated by it; Colby is repulsed and terrified. No surprise there. The child is represented by a Silver Cross pram kitted out like the Starship Enterprise, all wires and tubes and ominous beeping.


By Rachel Axler
Women's Project
424 West 55th Street, 212-239-6200

Under Pam MacKinnon's direction at the Women's Project, Beck, Keller, and Brian Sgambati (as Nick's obnoxious older brother) all perform well, and Axler occasionally demonstrates why she has earned a couple of Emmys. The play is at its best when Axler uses lively language to detail Colby's ambivalence, as when she torments the baby with a stuffed animal made entirely of arms and legs. "I call him Mister Limbs," says Colby. "He has everything you don't. Plus? Water-absorbent." Alas, the play's arc is rather soppy, and Axler's barbs give way to a sentimental conclusion—trading unsettling dissonance for a stale lullaby.