In Zayd Dohrn’s increasingly disturbing ‘Reborning’, the character who makes custom dildos for a living is the least damaged person onstage. His name is Daizy—the result of hippie parents, he says—and he fell into the adult art niche after graduating Rhode Island School of Design. But we never see his studio. Dohrn spends most of the play in the workspace of his girlfriend Kelly, a fellow RISD grad and sculpting entrepreneur with a creepier specialty: She designs dolls fashioned to resemble actual babies, usually at the request of grieving mothers.
In the show’s difficult Florida premiere at Theatre at Arts Garage—the first in its intimate new black box theater space—we first encounter Kelly (Elizabeth Price) smoking a joint at her workstation, dressed in pajamas and listening to classic rock. Angie Riserbato’s set design is appealingly unsettling. A doll in mid-construction lies on a metal table, and on either side, tubs and baskets full of rubber infant appendages are stacked on industrial shelves. A handful of completed dolls stare at as soullessly, as if awaiting their horror movie franchises.
Kelly is about to encounter an unexpected guest in her Queens walkup: Emily (Deborah Kondelik), a lawyer en route to work, whose requested doll in the likeness of her late baby Eva isn’t due until the next day. Kelly scrambles to deodorize the pot haze, switches the rock soundtrack to tinkling lullabies, and welcomes her guest, who requests a visible progress report. At first, Emily seems pleased with Kelly’s craftsmanship. Working from a photograph, she captured the “little crust on [Eva’s] eyebrows,” and the hair—“Australian mohair micro-rooted to the scalp”—is spot-on. But there’s something a little off about the replica, something not quite accurate to Emily’s burned-in memories of her child. Something in the eyes, perhaps.