Premiered at the Public Theatre as part of the Summer Play Festival in June 2009.
Daizy (male, 20s) Greg Keller
Emily (female, 40s) Ally Sheedy
Kelly (female, 20s) Katherine Waterston
Director: Kip Fagan
Scenic Design: David Evans Morris
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Matt Frey
Sound and Video Design: Leah Gelpe
Publication: Dohrn, Zayd. Reborning. Samuel French, 2013. Drama Library PS3604. O47 R43 2013
Setting: A dollmaker’s studio in Queens, NY.
Yeah, I was kind of famous, for a while. In The New York Post. “The Dumpster Darling”. Sold a lot of papers for those assholes, which is probably my greatest regret…
Plot: A dollmaker has been commissioned to create a doll based on her customer’s dead child. While some of the character details are a bit precious (Daizy is a boy named by hippy parents; a RISD graduate, he makes dildos for a living), the basic premise isn’t that far-fetched: you can understand that grief over a lost child might drive a parent to do strange things. Where the play loses steam is when it tries to conflate Kelly’s traumatic past with her present profession, and in particular, with her commission for Emily.
Representative Monologues: (Long monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.)
p.15: Daizy explains to Kelly why he finds her work disgusting.
Sorry. But it’s like—we’re on Oprah or something here, and these people think they’re buying some product that’s gonna make them feel better about like—(imitating Oprah) “You get a doll! And you get a doll! Everybody gets a fucking doll!” (picking up a doll) Look at this. Is this a perfect symbol for some kind of –post-feminist capitalist nightmare? “Realities of life too depressing for you, little lady? Go shopping! Who needs a career? Play with dolls!” I mean—women in Africa lose half their kids within a year, all right? To diarrhea! Know what they do? They get knocked up again. Right away. They don’t have time to raise a baby made out of plastic!
p.45: Emily explains what happened to her to make her want a doll.
But, right. Well, it wasn’t enough…for me. (beat) I weened Eva, you know, when she was six months old…I wanted to go back to work. To make partner. A year off would have killed my career. Put me in mom-limbo, permanently. And I couldn’t stand pumping in the restroom, like a cow. Having the secretaries walk in one me. The slurping sound. So, we switched to formula. [Lines cut] Then last year, I started getting these hot flashes. And it all came rushing back. That need. I see babies in the park now, when I’m out jogging, and I want to touch them so bad, my fingers ache.
p.8–10: Emily examines the Eva doll for the first time. Starts with
The little crust on her eyebrows. I haven’t thought about that for…God knows. I didn’t realize I still had that on my mind…
and ends with
Not at all. Not at all. It’s a relief, actually. To be so straightforward. I thought I was being realistic.
p.22–23: Emily examines the doll for the second time. Starts with
The milia on the nose. So alive. It just—Makesteh eyes feel a bit flat to me, that’s all.
and ends with
Right. And I can’t sculpt your memory.
Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism: (Note: article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)
Healy, P. (2009, Sep 03). A playwright’s glimmers of a fugitive childhood. New York Times. (Review of The Public Theatre production)
Marchese, E. (2012, May 09). ‘Reborning’ swaddled in dysfunction, authenticity. Orange County Register. (Review of Chance Theater production in Orange County)
Reborning. (2011, May 10). Daily Variety. (Review of San Francisco Playhouse production)