Why does a modern woman need a man to have a baby? Based on that one question this thought-provoking, philosophically complex, one-act situation comedy is a well-performed, naughty, but nice, spicy relief from this wicked winter.
Sandra is about to give birth to quintuplets. If this woman must have a child, why not have womb mates? Two excited friends, Sole (Carolina Calderón) and Marina (Jhakye García) show up in the hospital maternity waiting room for the blessed event, supervised by the lively Nurse (Marcela Ferlito), who also is pregnant out of wedlock and dating three men. While they wait, they take turns riffing about the conflicts a modern mother confronts, and the unseen consequences of the breakdown of strict morality and gender roles.
The modern immaculate conception is what Argentine playwright Susan Torres Molina appears to be celebrating: Modern science can produce miracles. A woman can have a child without a man. And why only one, why not have womb mates? One stop shopping for five at one time is appealing.
There are religious and Biblical references throughout the richly layered, at moments opaque, dialogue Molina writes, such as a reference to King Herod, and to “spikenard,” used for incense since ancient times in Judaism. In contrast, there’s mention of the modern atheist and Portuguese Nobel Laureate, José Saramago. Mixed in is the contrast of the Opus Dei, that offshoot Catholic group, that seeks to find holiness in daily life. Some are celibates and abstain from sexual intercourse. So whereas artificial insemination and surrogate pregnancies might seem appealing to some groupies, Molina takes jabs at our lifestyle, sexual freedom, and the confusion over gender roles.
Director Mario Marcel keeps the tempo as rapid as a racing heart beat and Molina’s dialogue crackles at peak moments. Who is going to take care of the kids? Submit to the bondage of motherhood or fight for the freedom of remaining single? Three skilled actresses strut their stuff and show they know how to work an audience for laughs and skim over the weak spots in the script.
In the character of Sole, we see one solution: role reversal. Sole’s laid-off husband is now a stay-at-home caregiver while she, the career woman, supports the family. Sole, given a precise portrayal by Carolina Calderón, dressed smartly in a trim, tailored suit, who favors withdrawing sperm from a fertility clinic or bank. Sole instructs her husband over her cell phone to “….Take the chicken out of the freezer…” This is what Sandra did. “It’s so great to be able to have children without men!” Sole says. “And not only that! Five! Sandra, how courageous, she’s a heroine for the new century!”
The Nurse takes a different spin, as warmly portrayed as a boisterous, quirky earth mother by Marcela Ferlito. “How could it occur to any normal woman to go to a sperm bank and get artificially inseminated…seeing how it’s so much simpler, cheaper and more fun to do it God’s way?” The way Ferlito vigorously develops the Nurse brings to mind a female Don Juan, a trickster, a legendary classic character in Spanish literature, who is addicted to sex and plays the field. The Trickster disobeys conventional rules for behavior. Similarly, the Nurse has three lovers and is pregnant. As for who the father is doesn’t much matter, for the Nurse loves all three.
Then there is the character of Marina, the most ethereal of the three, hilariously played by Jhakye García, who opts for total freedom from pregnancy. Marina practices meditation with spikenard flowers, and like a ballerina, does arabesques around the waiting room couches. She will be an egg donor, “…..let them fertilize it, leave it to grow in an incubator…” Then later, she can adopt a child.
SUCH A LIFE YOU’VE GIVEN ME…
AND IT’S NOT ENOUGH
Closes March 9, 2014
Teatro de la Luna at
Gunston Arts Center – Theatre 2
2700 South Lang St.
1 hour, 20 minutes
Tickets: $15 – $35
Thursdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
The trio delivers an exuberant performance, timed for laughs. Example: what does the Nurse do with her three male friends at their once-a-week get-togethers? Have a tryst? Not at all. The punch line is surprising. And Ferlito as the Nurse carries the friendly spirit and comic energy right up to the ultimate twist at the end.
What Molina has written focuses on women as people, as mothers, human beings under stress of modern society. But segments in the dialogue left me puzzled. Perhaps program notes would have helped explain the relevance of the references to the local Argentine soccer star and coach, Diego Armando Maradona, considered by some to be the best of all time. Parts of the dialogue include edgy, black humor that falls flat. There were moments when I wondered: Is the subject matter freaky for sensationalism or in fashion?
What is effective, however, is how we never see Sandra, pregnant to the bursting point. The violence of giving birth to five babies is kept off-stage with grunt-and-groan sound effects. Lighting designer Brian S. Allard’s dramatic lighting changes keep the high point moments in focus. More could have been made of Sandra’s out-of-body experience. The exhausted mother gives birth, leaves her body, like a resurrection, and experiences a transformation. When she returns, she has a mysterious message about friendship. I wish Molina had written more along those lines and how this play is about a common bond between all women who want continuity. That much gets across from the superb acting.
For agest 15 and up. In Spanish with English Surtitles. For the surtitles, it’s best to sit in the last two rows.
U. S. premiere of Such a Life You’ve Given Me…and It’s Not Enough/La Vida Que Me Das…y no me alcanza by Argentinean playwright Susan Torres Molina . Translation by David Bradley . Directed by Mario Marcel . Produced by Teatro de la Luna . Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy.