by Alyssa Zakaryan

Smudge begins with an expecting couple, Colby and Nick, confused by the ultrasound photo of their baby. They can’t even determine the baby’s gender. When the baby is born, to say that Colby and Nick are surprised is an understatement – the baby comes out with only one puny “leg” and one “Caribbean Sea colored eye.” The rest of play shows how both parents react and cope (or at least try to) with their daughter, their “little monster”, Cassandra.
Cassandra’s birth summons fear, resentment, pity and denial. She invokes an unconventional array of emotions in those who interact with her. The characters are very complex – their outer appearances are only shallow representations of their true feelings and expectations. While Nick appears to be the ideal father by interacting with Cassandra, he is in fact in denial of her terrible disposition, constantly telling her to “reach for the carrot” with the arms she does not have. On the other hand, Colby is very upfront with her detestation towards “it,” but resentfully grows to care for Cassandra – this is after tormenting Cassandra with a plush toy made with many limbs protruding everywhere.
Smudge explores an area that seems untouched – can a parent really love their child no matter what? Parents are expected to love their child unconditionally right off the bat. Usually parents are portrayed as all loving, and if the baby is defective, they rush to take care of it. With Cassandra, the baby becomes the enemy because she is different and because of her parents’ difficulty in loving and accepting her.
Playwright Rachel Axler (from The Daily Show and Parks and Recreation) shows the diverging sides of a possible reaction to such a tragic and unexpected situation. Smudge is a play that will make you think – what would you do in this situation?
HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $20 general rush • thru Feb. 7 • Julia Miles Theater, 424 W. 55th St.
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