What do you do when your baby isn’t a baby? When your baby is a disfigured, grotesque thing? Nick and Colby, the parents of an extremely deformed infant, struggle with those questions in Smudge, Rachel Axler’s provocative play. The two characters have very different reactions to their newborn. Nick tries to treat it like a normal baby. Colby doesn’t even want to look at it. (Zachary Lewis and Jennifer Gilbert star as Nick and Colby, with Chuck Hutchison rounding out the cast as Pete, Nick’s brother.)

Director David Rainey says Smudge is funny, touching and poignant, with a wonderful message about parenthood. Wait a minute — funny? A mother cutting off the arms and legs of her baby’s clothes because her baby doesn’t actually have any arms or legs sounds grotesque, not funny. “That’s what’s wonderful about this play,” says Rainey. “Some of the moments are grotesque, some are shocking and some are shockingly funny. A lot of times you’re laughing at things you really shouldn’t be laughing at.”

Rainey, who is also artistic director for The Landing Theatre Company, which is mounting this production, admits that while comedies are standard summer-theater choices, there’s nothing standard about Smudge. “The days of old summer stock are gone. We’re trying to do great American theater. We’re not looking for fluff.” 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and July 23. Through July 28. University of Houston — O’Kane Theatre, One Main, Third Floor.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Mon., July 23, 8 p.m. Starts: July 13. Continues through July 28, 2012

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