Playwright: Rebecca Gilman. At: Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn. Phone: 312-443-3800; $10-$39. Runs through: June 21
For most of recorded history, children were considered necessary accidents at both birth and death. With the 19th century, children became possessions to be cherished for their own sake, rather than for their contribution to the clan workforce. But along with this sentimental view—engendered in no small part by the decrease in infant mortality—came fears of a population exceeding the resources necessary for its support, and the advent of "planned parenthood." Nowadays, with children no longer exclusively a two-person heterosexual option, is it any surprise that our attitudes toward procreation should be fraught with controversy?
Rebecca Gilman's play presents us with three couples: Dan and Windsong—yes, that's her name—are in the process of having a baby and appear perfectly willing, even eager, to structure their futures around the offspring they believe will provide them the happiness hitherto missing from their lives. Childless sixtysomethings Tom and Karen, on the other hand, claim to have found—following their respective divorces—all the happiness they desire in one another. Caught between are Jasper and Melinda, the latter worried that their opportunities for "replacing themselves" are diminishing and the former uneasy at the loss of personal fulfillment represented by commitment to a family. And lest we trivialize the gravity of this decision, slacker-buddy Dwight's account of parents-with-kids misbehaving in public brings the stakes home in vivid detail.
To breed, or not to breed? Playgoers fond of action-fueled plots may wonder what's so exciting about a buncha people sittin' around a backyard picnic swapping opinions, but Gilman has a knack for articulating precisely the arguments needed to address the topic at hand with an efficiency that never feels forced or stilted. The result makes for a lively and entertaining symposium, even for audience members whose minds are already made up, as each individual is forced to justify their position and its effect on those they love. Read more story below....
Wendy C. Goldberg directs a cast adept at engaging our immediate recognition ( especially Stephanie Childers, who does it while sporting a belly of a size and dimension achieved only by theatrical prosthetics ) , much as Kevin Depinet's scenic design replicates a north side two-flat so accurately that you wonder if your own residence might have been the model. Make no mistake—we know these characters, portrayed with irony-free verisimilitude right up to the play's deliberately ambiguous ending, and our hopes for their future should make for spirited post-show conversation.