Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

 

A LESBIAN AND A CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST WALK INTO A FERTILITY CLINIC….

 

picture - TaboosTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published September 26, 2008

 

Taboos

now playing Off Broadway at the Soho Playhouse

through October 19

 

Before I say anything critical about a comedy of the complicated ethics of conception and parenthood via donated fertility, I should confess that I am adamantly child-free.  Beyond never wanting a child of my own, I have difficulty imagining why anyone else would honestly want one of the squalling things, let alone go through the travails and tensions of donor parents in order to achieve it.  The accomplishments of science in terms of fertility treatments are remarkable, it’s true, but my own position has always been: “If you want a baby so badly, why not adopt?  Why do you so strongly need it to be ‘yours’?”

 

Carl Djerassi’s new play, Taboos, encourages us to think about what makes a family and what makes a baby one’s own.  When a lesbian’s embryo ends up in a Christian Fundamentalist’s womb, the complications and questions of rightful parenthood lead to explosive collisions between biology and sentiment.  It doesn’t help that the Fundamentalist is the wife of the lesbian’s lover’s brother, making for a tangled family tree rooted in miscommunication and judgment. 

 

It’s no surprise that Djerassi is writing about fertility.  A scientist turned playwright, he is the father of “the Pill,” the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive.  Djerassi’s scientific background is apparent throughout the play, sometimes giving us stilted dialogue and more biology than mundane conversation requires.  I might not have cared about the characters’ predicaments, but I certainly learned about fertility science! 

 

Perhaps I am being too harsh.  There is humor in Djerassi’s script, and director Melissa Maxwell and her cast do their best to highlight it.  We spend a lot of time laughing at the Fundamentalists from the South, but John G. Preston (Cameron) and Jenn Schulte (Priscilla) endeavor to preserve the possible authenticity of their characters from flattening into punch lines.  Meanwhile, Blake Delong (Max) plays the raissoneur, dubiously removed from the situation, while Julie Leedes (Sally) and Helen Merino (Harriet) never seem comfortable enough with their relationship for me to believe it. 

 

Taboos raises interesting questions on the nature of the modern family, but Djerassi’s at-times didactic tone (can I blame him? He is a scientist, after all…) makes the play feel like an after-school special.  The subject has the potential to be compelling, but this plot seems contrived at best, a thought-experiment which never fully acknowledges itself as such.  Djerassi has constructed an ethical family mess.  I just wish he’d been able to do justice to the emotional fallout.

 

kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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