Bye Bye Baby


80 pages
ISBN 0-897289-03-0
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson, Librarian Emeritus, former Assistant Director of
Libraries (University of Saskatchewan) and dramaturge (Festival de la
Dramaturgie des Prairies).


Bye Bye Baby is a rare theatrical script, as much of a pleasure to read
as it to see fully realized on stage. Inspired by the author’s
collection of short stories titled Can You Wave Bye Bye Baby? (recipient
of a half-dozen awards including the QSPELL Hugh MacLennan Prize for
Fiction and shortlisted for the 1999 Governor General’s Award), it is
an intensely human comedy.

“You can’t run a race if you don’t know where the starting line
is.” The thematic point of departure is, in fact,
autobiographical—the adopted author’s search for her birth mother
and her frustrating encounters with Quebec social service agencies bound
on this issue by protocols that were a bizarre “relic of a culture of
shame.” Her brilliantly conceived play uses a series of telling images
and articulate monologues and dialogues involving Elle (the girl who is
adopted and who herself is expecting a child), Image-Birthmother,
Adoptive Mother, Image-Elle, and a representative social worker. These
prototypical female characters are anything but static; with poetically
articulate stage directions for flashbacks and nightmares, the author
makes each out as a psychological shape-shifter.

The Kafka-esque quest for her birth mother is frustrating almost to the
point of suicide or the ironic abortion of Elle’s unborn child. Still,
the author manages to bring comedy into the mix in both word and plot.
At one point Elle plays her own shell game by refusing to reveal the
identity of the father of her unborn child. At another desperate moment
Adoptive-Mother blurts out “Let’s think in (Breathes in.) and out
(Exhales.).” Then she begins Lamaze breathing! Not surprisingly,
speculation as to the identity of her birth mother gives rise to
fantasies of grandeur and a brilliantly sustained trope on the
possibility that Elle might actually be the baby given up for adoption
by Joni Mitchell.

A marvellous twist at the end gives a final brush of comedy to a
theatrical evening that will take the audience and the fortunate reader
through a lifetime of human emotions.


Gasco, Elyse., “Bye Bye Baby,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,