"Babbitt" at the La Jolla Playhouse Led by Matthew Broderick as the title character,

Showcases a Stellar Cast

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(L-R) Francis Jue, Chris Myers, Julie Halston, Matthew Broderick and Anna Chlumsky in BABBITT; photo by Jenna Selby.
Theatre is such a powerful art form, and often we subconsciously just take it as a mere variety of entertainment, when it gives us so much more. La Jolla Playhouse's world premiere of "Babbitt", an adaptation, written by Joe DiPietro and based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis, thoroughly illustrates American culture, the middle class, and what success should look like. As someone who did not grow up in that culture, I feel the angles stand out even more, it was like watching one of the molds for "Leave it to Beaver". With that said, there is a commonality with every culture about how success should look like, and how women are perceived in society along their roles. George Babbitt seemingly has the ideal life with a wife, two kids, and a ride-or-die best friend. A creature of habit, everything is good as long as it continues its flow while not grasping that he is going through a mid-life crisis, and that his family, has needs, aspirations, and frustrations too. Like chess, George becomes a pawn of the system.

Directed by Christopher Ashley, "Babbitt" showcases a stellar cast, led by Matthew Broderick as the title character, George Babbitt. Broderick's performance is charming, as he embodies Babbitt's inner turmoil and disillusionment with the American Dream. The supporting cast is fantastic, histrionically circling Broderick and enhancing each scene with Genevieve Angelson, Anna Chlumsky, Julie Halston, Ann Harada, Francis Jue, Matt McGrath, and Chris Myers who delivered nuanced portrayals of multiple characters, transitioning between the various roles. Their versatility and acting potency added depth and dimension to the production. This ensemble is definitely a tour de force. Something that gave me an odd feeling during the performance I saw, was the audience's reaction when Matthew Broderick came to the stage by clapping and cheering uncontrollably. A reaction that did not occur with the actors that started the play which, I am sure they can see coming and even get used to. Aside from seeing the power of TV and cinema warped into a live performer that people are very excited about, -and I am almost sure that secretly wishing to hear "Bueller"-... I cannot say enough how amazing, strong, and cohesive this cast is. Joe DiPietro's adaptation, coupled with Christopher Ashley's direction, showcases the timeless relevance of Sinclair Lewis' novel. And even though the novel is from the 1920s, having phrases that go something like "we just allowed you ladies to vote" and other misogynist nonsense that could be perceived as outdated...I found it to be very timely... 

Matthew Broderick and Ann Harada in BABBITT; photo by Jenna Selby.

The set design, created by Walt Spangler, is stunning. A visual feast for the eyes with a two-story library, adorned in white and purple, serving as a striking backdrop for the unfolding drama. Adding linoleum floors and rotating platforms enriches the theatrical experience, allowing the actors to seamlessly move across the stage and adding a dynamic element to the storytelling.

Cha See's lighting design masterfully amplifies the set's visual impact. Precisely lit, the scenes are bathed in tones that perfectly complement the mood, creating a rich and immersive atmosphere. Meanwhile, the sound design, crafted by Leon Rothenberg, cleverly manipulates volume levels to enhance the dialogue-driven moments and highlight Babbitt's impactful speeches, effectively shaping the overall mood of the production.

"Babbitt" is a thoughtfully choreographed piece, with Stephen Buescher's choreography adding a layer of physicality and movement that further amplifies the emotional depth of the story. The performances are skillfully synchronized, creating a smooth fusion of movement and narrative.

Currently playing until December 10th, this production succeeds in capturing the essence of a middle-aged, middle-class white man's journey in his pursuit of the American Dream, creating room for introspection and for this country with different cultures and backgrounds coexisting, it also shines a light on what the American dream really is and what does that mean?

For ticket prices and performance dates and times, please click HERE

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