“Forty is old to have a baby.”
Those words rang in the ears and down to the depths of Ginna Hoben’s soul as a skinny, way too young nurse pronounced her sentence over the actress desperately trying to conceive a child.
‘Advanced maternal age’ is the term for a woman over age 35, perhaps a more palatable moniker for Hoben’s time-stamp than the old term, geriatric pregnancy.
Hoben had heard both terms to describe her status. But the desire to bring a tiny life into this world far outweighed the stigma of labels. Despite hearing about risk factors, new medical terms, and the statistics stacked against a 40-something couple attempting to conceive, Hoben grabbed on to hope and the dream of sharing laughter with a precious little girl.
This journey, wrought with fear, trepidation, and large doses of humor, are documented in Hoben’s new solo show, No Spring Chicken, a world premiere commission by NextStop Theatre Company in which the playwright stars. With a sense of adventure, a touch of whimsy and just the right amount of pathos, Hoben has crafted a winning evening of theatre. This comedy also contributes to DC’s far-ranging Women Voices in Theatre Festival and is an entry worth seeing.
Known for another one-woman show, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Hoben’s gift of crafting her personal experiences into a fully-fledged serio-comic play are wildly apparent. I think just sitting down for a conversation with Hoben would entertain, engage and touch parts of your soul. This is also how she approaches the material she used for No Spring Chicken: it’s conversational, not stagey. She can also pull of the hat trick of moving a listener from belly-laughs to wiping a tear away within the same sentence.
Director Sullivan Cannaday White has helped shape Hoben’s solo play into a piece that uses the fabulous intimacy of NextStop’s space to great advantage. Jane Hosticka Fink has designed an impressive crescent moon that looms center stage and is cleverly used throughout the 80 minute play and becomes more prominent as Hoben’s due date approaches. Likewise, the pinpointed lighting scheme of designer Annmarie Castrigno helps the solo actress define moving from her OBGYN to her apartment.
NO SPRING CHICKEN
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival
September 24 – October 11
269 Sunset Park Drive
Herndon, VA 20170
1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Details and Tickets
As a solo piece, I was struck at how vivid the other characters Hoben mentions become. Not with vocal tricks. Just by the power of her storytelling. She paints a picture of the legendary King, the number one obstetrician with the highest fertility rates. Just shaking hands with the doctor has been said to help women conceive, or so the myth goes. We also meet Hoben’s husband Fletcher, or we will as though we do when she describes his coaching techniques or other contributions to the journey to having a child together. Gales of laughter followed Hoben’s quotation of Fletcher’s self-boosting pep talk as he went off to make a special deposit in the fertility clinic: “Leave it all on the field, Fletch! Leave it all on the field.”
Every subject from pregnancy tests and methods of fertility – “fish and dish” versus the “turkey baster” method – to herbal teas, the horrors of health coverage – Hoben weaves all the highs and the lows into the mix. Once the miracle of conception blesses Ginna and Fletcher, she faces all the other rights and privileges a pregnancy at 40 can bring: increased nausea and the risk factors that are ever present. Hoben also cleverly consults the internet and creates what you could call a second character in the play, thanks to sound designer Nicholas Upchurch. The internet has a most pleasant voice, even when delivering the most mundane or frustrating information, including fifty dollar medical terms like hyperemesis gravidarum. (That’s morning sickness, for us mortals.) Hoben’s reactions to the internet are priceless and just sharpen our focus of her as an actress.
With the message of never giving up hope, by the last moments of the play, Hoben has explored the mystery of conception, endured episodes of desperation, and been close to the edge several times. No Spring Chicken is an amazing journey to share through the power of theatre.
No Spring Chicken written and performed by Ginna Hoben . Director: Sullivan Canaday White . Set design: Jane Hosticka Fink . Lighting design: Annmarie Castrigno . Costume design: Kristina Martin . Sound design: Nicholas Upchurch . Stage Manager: Donna Reinhold . Produced by NextStop Theatre Company . Reviewed by Jeff Walker .