Baby with the Bathwater is a dark comedy about how difficult it is to be a parent, and how scary it is to be a baby and a child. The play is written in an absurdist, playful style and, for all its dark topic, has a hopeful ending.
Helen and John are very unprepared for parenthood. They can’t seem to name the baby. John thinks it’s a boy, but Helen says the doctors said they could decide later. When the baby cries, they can’t quite decide what to do. To their rescue comes Nanny – who enters their apartment as if by magic, and is full of abrupt shifts of mood, first cooing at the baby soothingly, then screaming at it. In subsequent scenes, John and Nanny have an affair, Helen takes baby and leaves, only to come back a moment later rain-soaked and unhappy. (“Well if it isn’t Nora five minutes after the end of A Doll’s House,” says Nanny.) At some point they finally name the baby Daisy, and as a toddler, Daisy has a penchant for running in front of buses; or for lying, depressed, in piles of laundry. We hear an alarming essay Daisy has written in school, and the principal, the terrifying Miss Willoughby, is oblivious to the essay’s cry for help, and instead gleefully awards it an A for style. Finally, we meet Daisy – dressed as a girl, but otherwise a polite, confused young man. In a “jump cut” sort of scene, we follow his years and years of therapy, where he alternates feeling depressed and angry, and is unable to complete his Freshman essay on Gulliver’s Travels for over 5 years. In the end the play comes full circle as the former Daisy and his young bride fondly regard their own baby—forgiving of the past but determined not to repeat its calamitous mistakes.