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THEATER REVIEW All Mixed Up
by Liz Baudler
2016-10-26

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Playwright: John Enright. At: Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. Tickets: $15; PropThtr.org . Runs through: Nov. 6

All Mixed Up tells the story of a couple who's expecting and in turmoil.

Beth, who's Black, and Carrie, who's white, are having a kid. They'd decided on a mixed kid, with sperm from a white donor. But the night before the story takes place, the heavily pregnant Beth reveals that she's used a Black donor instead, meaning the child isn't mixed at all. We catch up as Carrie attempts to reconcile with Beth in the lobby of a hotel, but both an overzealous security guard and the "baby daddy" complicate their efforts.

All Mixed Up plays out like a screwball comedy, although it's not incredibly funny. It's the layers of misunderstanding and clarification, and the exaggerated roles, particularly of Ada, the security guard, that give it that feel. Beth comes off as most believable—tired, stressed and trying to minimize her deception. Occasionally, it felt like Melissa Golden ( the understudy ) could have been a little more engaged with her lines, but her lack of intensity paired nicely with the other three characters, who had enough intensity to power a whole musical.

Carrie, the high-powered lawyer fiance, is incredibly unlikable for most of the play. One really doesn't develop sympathy for her until the end, when she reveals both insecurity and tenderness. The playwright of All Mixed Up is a chap named John Enright, and naturally one might wonder how well he could write a lesbian couple. It's not a noticeable issue: Beth and Carrie don't have a lot of intimacy, but that's likely a result of the tense situation.

Daniel, the baby's father, is a curious case. He appears to be an innocent victim of someone else's relationship woes. However, as the play goes along he gradually seems more entitled and creepy toward Beth, the inverse of Carrie's trajectory. In some ways, even though she's the most unbelievable, Ada the security guard is the most successful character. With her hair-trigger temper and no-nonsense manner, Ada ends up reading Miranda rights to both Carrie and Daniel. It's fun to watch her in action.

The lack of over-the-top humor isn't a bad thing. Enright still has the audience curious about and invested in the couple's predicament. Overall, the dialogue seems snappy as well—sometimes verging on bland, sometimes too clever, but it does keep the story moving. The desire to address racial issues sometimes feels hamfisted. Daniel's initial introduction has Carrie reacting to him in a clearly racist way. Later on, Carrie expresses her concern about the child viewing her as an "other." This is more nuanced and more emotional, but it's still short and simple. A different playwright might have added more and a different audience might have found it unsatisfying—but, in the moment, it was acceptable.

In general, short and simple seems the best way to describe All Mixed Up, which appeared to clock in under the projected 90-minute run time. Tangled motivations unravel in a relatively uncomplicated way, and that makes it hard to recommend—but also hard to critique.


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