Poor Baby Bree’s new show is, like the cardboard tree that is its sole piece of scenery, a knotty little enigma. Entitled I’m Going to Run Away, the one-gamin show seems to to graft together the plots of Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with the Circus and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to tell the tale of a little girl who leaves home in order to join a tent show and winds up a pathetically young whore. It’s a depressing arc, and Bree plays it that way, her somber face only slightly less stony than Buster Keaton’s as she mirthlessly essays a number of mostly obscure, pre-Jazz era showtunes in her little patchwork dress. As a short turn on a variety bill this might play well as camp (my preference, truth to tell), but the closest thing to that quality here is her accent, which sounds for all the world like Barbara Stanwyck’s. That clicks when she’s a hardened streetwalker, but is a bit perplexing at the top of the show, when she is clearly coming from a small town at least a hundred miles from Five Points. The repertoire is interesting at an academic level, but seems limited by the need to fit them into the story, rather than a quality of liveliness that might engage us. (The only tune I recognized is “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” – the kind of song that would freeze a New Year’s Eve party dead in its tracks). I might embrace the arc if it were a full theatre piece, but there’s not enough of it; it comes off more as patter in a very peculiar cabaret act. Granted, the patois is spot-on, though at a remove. It sounds like a 1930s Hollywood retelling of an 1890s story. Confused? Me, too.But in a good way. Citizen Kane is also confusing the first time we watch it. That’s why some of us watch it again and again and again. I shall have to find out more about this Poor Baby Bree.
I’m Going to Run Away