Whether or not April’s there, it is fine to be in England—particularly in the sun-drenched London loft to which your husband’s work has brought you. But writer-illustrator Wren (the winning Heidi Schreck) can’t adjust. She fears taking the tube and deems English money unfathomable. She stays indoors, pacing, brooding, eating “biscuits,” and finds herself paralyzed by the titular Demon Baby (Glenn Fleshler), an outsize garden gnome who sits atop her chest.
Erin Courtney’s superbly uneasy comedy physicalizes, most unusually, the anxiety of displacement. Wren’s husband tries to explain the Demon Baby away as a sleep disorder, but Wren knows better. Sleep disorders don’t straddle your chest and whisper absurdities and suspicions. “Where’s your passport?” murmurs the Demon Baby insinuatingly. “You have to leave.” Whether Wren is mad or the Demon Baby exists is a pleasant conundrum.
The puzzle grows less enjoyable when, in the play’s latter half, the Demon Baby loses its specificity, appearing to other characters as a sort of ventriloquist or passerby. Courtney seems to have lost control of her creature. This decentering—of metaphor, of theme, of tone—may be intentional, but it’s also frustrating. If they’re to improve the landscape, garden gnomes ought to stay where you put them.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2004