In their fifth collaboration, the Echo Theater Company and playwright Jessica Goldberg do not disappoint. “Babe,” a world premiere playing at Atwater Village Theatre through Oct. 24, is a complex and powerful story focusing on the music biz in present-day New York City while skewering gender-related workplace dynamics.
Abby (Julie Dretzin) and Gus (Sal Viscuso) are A&R execs who’ve been working together since the ’90s (apparently that’s a distant generation and, boy, does that make me feel old!). Despite the recent sensitivity training at the record label, which Abby keeps reminding him about, Gus remains an anachronism without a filter, repeating crude stories that would get anyone in immediate trouble with HR these days.
New Gen Z team member Kaitlin (Wylie Anderson) was inspired to join the music industry by Abby and the young star she discovered, Kat Wonder. However, that starry-eyed admiration quickly dissolves, and her political correctness and “presentism” threaten the boy’s club and the decades-long tango Gus and Abby have been dancing. Anderson doubles as Kat Wonder, who skyrocketed to fame and crashed and burned just as quickly. She appears in dream sequences as Abby’s lover.
While there are plenty of laughs (Gus is hilarious as long as he’s not your boss), more than once you may get a lump in your throat. Kaitlin’s nudging comments make Abby reconsider her relationship with Gus and her career. Even though he accompanies her at her chemo treatments, Gus doesn’t really respect Abby as an equal partner at work, despite her unquestionably valuable contributions (like nurturing Kat Wonder and saving an album that was sure to tank with a quick lyric rewrite). The fact that Gus never gave her credit on the albums was one clue Abby chose to ignore.
Goldberg’s masterful writing and the outstanding ensemble make this play a must-see. While “Babe” is thought-provoking throughout, the ending is killer. If you see the play, I hope you’ll share your thoughts about it below.
—Julie Riggott, Culture Spot LA
Photo credit: Sal Viscuso, Julie Dretzin and Wylie Anderson in “Babe.” / Photo by Cooper Bates