tiny father by Mike Lew

Chautauqua Theater Company and Barrington Stage Company

By: - Jul 01, 2023

tiny father |
By Mike Lew
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Co-World Premiere Produced by
Chautauqua Theater Company and Barrington Stage Company
Scenic design Wilson Chin. Costume design Tilly Grimes. Lighting  Alan C. Edwards. Sound design  Uptown Works. Production Stage Manager Andrew Petrick. Assistant Stage Manager Alden Kennedy
Cast: Jennifer Ikeda (Caroline) Andy Lucien (Daniel)
Barrington Stage Company
St. Germain Stage
Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center
36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA.
June 25-July 23, 2023

In a co production with Chautauqua Theater Company, Barrington Stage Company is presenting a world premiere tiny father by Mike Lew and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. There is another production scheduled for Geffen Hall in Los Angeles.

In a harrowing, tense, and gut wrenching manner Lew had written what he knows. Personal experience has been conflated into a two hander that examines a range of issues between an overwhelmed father of a premature daughter and the skilled and specialized nurse charged with her care. As precisely directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel there is the measured and ever evolving relationship, its ebb and flow, good days and bad ones, advances and setbacks.

The compact set designed by Wilson Chin simulates a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There are several stations for infants that are enclosed by curtains. The infant in question is in a kind of isolated cocoon. The back wall has windows to a corridor. The feeling of the NICU is austere, sanitary and efficiently functional. It is a less than comfortable, lived in space for the characters. The focus is entirely on the task at hand with the challenge of survival of an infant born at 26 weeks.

In an effective lighting design by Alan C. Edwards the passage of time, as days turn into weeks and months, is indicated in the illuminated proscenium. That stimulates the pulse of our own reactions as we calibrate the emotional evolution of the characters and their interaction.

Daniel (Andy Lucien) is entirely unprepared for fatherhood. As a freelancer who books events for book stores, or “book booker,” he barely makes enough to live in a small studio apartment. The child is the result of casual sex with a Japanese immigrant. They have no relationship but he drove her to the hospital. As a freelancer he has no health insurance and will need family support.

In addition to unplanned responsibilities she died and it has fallen to him to make funeral arrangements for a woman he hardly knew. Her parents are too elderly to travel from Japan.

The first encounter with the infant is traumatic. Tiny and fragile she is breathing with a ventilator and fed by tubes with wires monitoring vitals.

He is desperate, distraught and emotionally overwhelmed. Though he wants answers Caroline refuses to speculate and will only comment that the infant, as yet unnamed, is “very sick.”

While new and horrific for him she has been through it many times and maintains a professional reserve. It’s best not to become involved and drawn into emotional entanglements. It’s her job.

Gradually we learn of her own private life as a mother of two, infant and four year old, who wants to get off the night shift and have more time with her family.

The wonder of this play is the slow arc that reveals Daniel coming of age, adjusting his professional and private life, and accepting the heavy load of being a single dad. It is daunting to participate with his bonding with the infant (Sophia) as she progresses through benchmarks.

In stunning detail this drama lays out those medical stepping stones.  To protect both herself and the child under her care Carolyn is a stickler for protocol. As the infant progresses that entails monitoring and limiting his time holding and bottle feeding. This is necessary for him to take full control when the child is sent home.

Although she keeps her guard up Daniel pokes and probes. Part of that entails race, mortality and statistics as he is African American. It’s an informative sub text that enriches the play.

There is conflict and resolution that explores the depth and growth of the characters. We come to know and deeply empathize with them.

It’s an enthralling and emotionally wrenching evening of theatre which had the audience gasping on the edge of their seats. We left having experienced the fragile nature of life itself.