Evoking Nancy Drew, author Suzanne Bachner’s dramatized depiction of her own story spends several years attempting to find her birth parents in the course of her spellbinding autobiographical solo play, The Good Adoptee. Ms. Bachner’s superior writing is matched by actress Anna Bridgforth’s enthralling performance. Through her magnetism, charm and considerable acting skills, Ms. Bridgforth is dynamic on the contained and virtually bare stage for 80 minutes.
Nature verses nurture, loving one’s adoptive parents while still wanting to meet one’s birth parents and exploring the reasons for giving up a child are facets of the topic that Bachner skillfully explores with resonance.
Employing humor, documentary detail and suspense, Bachner offers an emotional detective story. Wit and whimsy meld with poignancy as the picaresque quest begins in present day New York City. It involves a gallery of characters, flashbacks. and often frustrating twists and turns, several of which are legal obstacles that impede such searches. Bureaucrats, a celebrated “adoption hunter,” the adopted parents and other key figures are all imaginatively incorporated into the narrative. Bridgforth is vocally and physically titanic as she switches back and forth between being Susan and playing the other characters with grandly distinctive characterizations.
Bachner’s direction has Bridgforth in a variety of precise and fluid positions that in concert with some simple clever visual flourishes make for an arresting presentation. There’s two large classic children’s ABC wooden blocks that get rearranged to connote different locations and that store a few instrumental props including an old-time Fisher Price chatter telephone. The symbolism of childhood is ever present throughout the adult situations. That’s particularly evident when Bridgforth wears closed-feet bunny rabbit pajamas during a wistful oration.
Red hues used for fantasy scenes are a neat feature of Katie Chai’s artfully stark lighting design. Ms. Chai’s sound design is equally as adept in realizing musical interludes and effects.
The Good Adoptee is an absorbing and theatrical take on its eternal subject matter.
This production is presented as part of “3 From JMTC.” JMTC Theatre is a company founded in 1994 that “combines art and advocacy to raise funds and awareness.” The Good Adoptee plays in repertory with two other solo shows, Smoker and Spitting in the Face of the Devil. The proceeds from this engagement go to You Gotta Believe, a foster youth organization and to the victim services agency Safe Horizon.
The Good Adoptee (through January 13, 2019)
The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.jmtcinc.com
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission