FRINGE 2018 CRITIC'S PICK: 'The Whitest Baby in All of Africa'

Brimming with wit and humor, it teaches lessons about injustice and discrimination

click to enlarge "Whitest Baby in All of Africa" - PHOTO: Provided
PHOTO: Provided
"Whitest Baby in All of Africa"

Race. Diversity. Culture. These three factors all have one thing in common: They are unfortunate barriers that prevent the achievement of true equality. Although it might seem difficult to break down these stubborn walls, playwright and director Sam Kerns accomplished this feat when he penned The Whitest Baby in All of Africa, a play that communicates the quiet bias that defines so many.

The show, presented at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, focuses on Angela and Elliot Osborne who comically exemplify the flagrant racism and privilege that has become accepted in American society. After discovering that she cannot bear children, Angela becomes fixated on adopting a black baby from Africa, for she views the child as her opportunity to differentiate herself from her associates.

Unbeknownst to Angela, Elliot arranges for the baby to be white. Enraged and betrayed, she struggles to cope with the baby she never wanted and to address the discrimination she engaged in during the adoption process. At the production’s conclusion, it is revealed that the narrator, a young girl who has served as a voice of reason amid the hilarious chaos, is actually Lindy, the white baby that the Osbornes adopted. The play ends with another beginning, as the characters remain static in “white” behavior, continuing the same adoptive cycle of ignorance.

The Whitest Baby in All of Africa is an eye-opening show that reprimands the quiet yet unabashed prejudice that often goes unnoticed. Striking just the right balance between hard-hitting comedy and genuine disputes, the play portrays what it means to be oblivious.

The portrayal of characters was impressive. Despite having a cast of only seven, the actors and actresses commanded attention effortlessly. Carolina Manfredi’s performance as Lindy was undeniably honest and carefully structured. Her ability to elicit easy laughs from the audience while also delivering ugly truths made her the perfect choice for this difficult role. Portraying the Osbornes, Reed Gnepper and Allie Campise depicted the toxic couple in a way that drove the plot’s gravity and also created a palpable comedic atmosphere. The ensemble also delivered an incredibly authentic performance, especially Briana Green; despite only having just one line, she concluded the narrative in a completely genuine and unforgettable way. The actors were fully committed to their characters and delivered the play’s message in a modern, cutting-edge fashion.

From beginning to end, The Whitest Baby in All of Africa definitely confronted our acceptance of diversity. Brimming with wit and humor, it taught lessons of injustice and discrimination, and more importantly what happens when they come full circle.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 10. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here.

Reviewer Lucy Lawler recently completed her freshman year at Saint Ursula Academy. A review she wrote for the Cincinnati Cappies, which recognizes high school theater programs, was one of two Outstanding Critiques for the 2017-18 school year. CityBeat is pleased to honor her achievement by providing her the opportunity to review this Fringe Next production by students from the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, onstage during the 15th annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival.