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If you thought you had a difficult childhood, take a look at Theatre Arts' production of Christopher Durang's acidic comedy Baby with the Bathwater, which opened last night in the Studio Theater at the Annenberg Center. Bringing up baby has never been so bad. Helen and John are the imperfect American couple: neurotic, incompatible and quite possibly insane, and saddled with a baby they don't really want. Unable to determine the sex of their little bundle of joy, they decide that the baby must be a girl. Unfortunately, their offspring -- "Daisy" -- matures into a strapping, intensely confused young man with enough problems to give Sigmund Freud a migraine. Baby with the Bathwater is a finely crafted yuppie nightmare that mercilessly mocks the ideal of the American family. Durang's pen drips with vitriol, and his dialogue is a perfect blend of malice and mirth. Wharton junior Jennifer Platzkere and College junior Kent Davis were perfectly matched as the battling husband and wife, and kudos to College junior Rebecca Creskoff and College freshman Marcie Levine for each playing a dazzling array of beautifully-drawn eccentrics. In the difficult role of Daisy, however, College junior Soren Kisiel was less convincing, reducing the complexities of adolescent angst to near-hysterical ravings that were more irritating than enlightening. Psychology Professor Henry Gleitman directed with an assured hand, skillfully sidestepping the tastelessness of the premise by driving the action forward at a breakneck speed. Unfortunately, the production could not sustain the frenetic pace of the first act, and parts of the second, especially Daisy's interminable confessions to a disembodied psychiatrist, threatened to capsize the production. Thankfully, the play picks up near the end, and the members of the audience left the theater on a sustained high, still chuckling over their favorite barbs. College freshman Chris Stillwell's original score -- a bizarre and threatening inversion of Fisher Price music -- complimented the action perfectly, while College freshman Scott Goldberg's set design, pink and blue ribbons on a stark black backdrop, was a deceptively simple combination of charm and menace. But it is Durang's script -- biting, caustic, yet painfully honest throughout -- that is the real star of the show. All in all, Baby with the Bathwater is the perfect antidote to the American dream and essential viewing for anyone even thinking of starting a family. Baby with the Bathwater will continue tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at $5, and are available on Locust Walk.

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