Antony Raymond's original play Pretty Babies, presented by Elsinore County Theater Company at 13th Street Rep Theater, introduces us over time to six characters who use each other for their own personal gains, all while justifying to themselves that they are acting on the grounds of true morality and love. The audience is first acquainted with Claire and Jason (Stacey Roca and Christopher Heard, respectively), a young drug-addicted couple in New York who begin the play by arguing -- or debating -- what it means to truly be faithful to one another as each brings up a recent time when the other was acting less than so. Their banter and attitudes towards one another start things off with a thoughtful, if cold, sense of humor. The arrival of their dealer Billy (Dan McVey) brings with it sidesplitting dialogue which quickly turns intense as the newcomer is sucked into the fray that he unknowingly walked into.
Next, in Los Angeles, we meet Martin (Benjamin Bauman) who is involved in a frustrating "relationship" with the young Randi (Sara Antkowiak). Martin is business casual all the way while Randi sports black cocktail and leopard print dresses and prefers to end her countless wild nights with raw animal sex, whether Martin is into it or not. He expresses these frustrations to his sister Sam (Mary Beth Albers) who is staying with him after a devastating break up. The siblings talk openly about their sexual experiences and wantings over a bag of Sun Chips that neither particularly enjoys the taste of. Until a later confrontation at least, these two appear to be the healthiest relationship in the entire show.
Of course these two groups were always meant to collide in chaotic fashion, as Randi is actually Jason's long lost half-sister and drags Martin with her across the country to meet her brother in New York. As the reunited siblings meet for the first time, it becomes clear that the two were meant for each other and destined to live out a life of sex, drugs and danger together, the fact that they're related not even factoring as an obstacle. Eventually the entire cast shares the stage and with so many personalities sharing one room, an imminent collision threatens to bring the laughter to a gasp.
Writer and director Antony Raymond creates a darkly comic world that the audience can't escape from. This is not a play with lengthy asides or poignant monologues; every line of dialogue is in reply to that of another character. There are no blackouts or set changes, characters filter in and out from the wings one after the other, often before a previous scene has fully ended. Some of these transitions work better than others, and the ones that do create a fluidity I rarely see on stage.
In Jason, Heard presents a carefree facade trying to cover up the dangerous man lurking beneath it. Bauman's Martin operates on a different plain entirely from the others, like an adult trying to hang out with the kids. As Randi, Antkowiak dominates every soul she encounters, knowing precisely how to get what she wants. The show's biggest laughs belong to Dan McVey as drug dealer Billy, who brings light to an admittedly slow start to the play. Stacey Roca's Claire, however, is really the heart of the show, giving us a character with obvious flaws but an intention to do good. She is arguably the most, if not the only sympathetic character in the play.
Pretty Babies runs around 90 minutes with no intermission, but there are plenty of laughs and suspense to keep you glued to your seat. With a cast of characters who are doomed from the start, you can't help but watch the train wreck.