My mother has taught me that taking care of children is never an easy task. Even for a devoted parent, it will often test the limits of your patience and sanity. I have seen this firsthand on more than one occasion, and I have immense respect for anyone who cares for children often in any capacity.
In PANK, Darla Biccum discusses an idea that is not often brought to light: caring for children other than your own is a difficult task in itself, and those who dedicate themselves to this task deserve their own recognition.
The show's name comes from the term that Darla uses to identify her role as a caregiver: Professional Aunt, No Kids. Throughout her adult life - even before she was decided on having children or not - she has had a reputation for frequently taking on babysitting duties.
When she discovered the concept of the PANK, it fit her self-image immediately and perfectly. Darla explores multiple facets of this topic: memorable experiences with specific families, her preferred babysitting strategies, advice for parents who hire babysitters, and complaints about difficulties she typically encounters on the job.
She briefly delves into her own experiences as they relate to the topic at hand, but the prologue is the only point at which she truly discusses herself independently of childcare. The opening portion of the play is a strong first impression that ties well into the rest of the performance, but it is not discussed for so long that it becomes focal to the story.
The enthusiasm that Darla has for her job is made self-evident by the passion she puts into her performance. At all times she is dramatic; no matter the tone of her current topic, she hits it strongly and sharply. A happy moment is very happy, a sad moment is particularly somber, and difficult children are recalled with more than a little well-earned sass.
Her vulnerable moments are subtle and slow, while her upbeat moments get straight to the point. All of this is supplemented by flawless sound and lighting cues, which always manage to supplement the action at just the right moments.
It is clear that Darla is an experienced, confident PANK, and the pride she takes in her title cannot easily be overstated. Anyone who has ever cared for children should take the time to see this show, whether they are a long-time parent or an occasional babysitter. Unlike raising a child, though, viewing PANK will never make you doubt that it was worth your time.
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