The Asolo’s production about an infertile couple is likeable—but not groundbreaking.
By Kay Kipling
Nature has programmed the human race so that procreation is one of our strongest urges. But what happens when that urge is denied by infertility? In today’s world of medical and technological advances, the choices are many, but not easy.
In Expecting Isabel, onstage at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, we follow the course of one couple’s quest to have a child. For Miranda (Kate Hampton) and Nick (John Pasha), the decision to become parents at first is a sudden impulse; they’re happily married New Yorkers in their late 30s, and perhaps it just seems the time is right. But in Lisa Loomer’s comedy, the simple desire to have a child becomes a long journey through doctors’ offices, support groups and adoption agencies and ultimately tests their marriage mightily.
Act I breezes along as we get to know Miranda, who speaks to us directly about the differences between her and Nick (i.e., he’s a happy person, she is not) and see some of the absurd circumstances she ends up in while trying to become pregnant (imagine a wild taxi ride to the clinic clutching a bottle of sperm while dressed in sexy lingerie). We like Miranda, and we like Nick, too. And we definitely get some laughs out of her martini-swilling mother (Sharon Spelman) and his stereotypically Italian family.
Act II turns a bit more serious, as the couple’s hopes turn to a variety of mothers-to-be who may or may not be willing to let them adopt their babies. Most affecting of these women is Lupe (Jenn Walker), a Puerto Rican mother of two who can’t imagine how she’ll cope with another. At each step of the way, Nick and Miranda get in deeper and deeper, both emotionally and financially.
The question is, will the audience get as involved as they do? While the cast (many of them doubling roles as nurses, support group members, street people, etc.) is fine, and it’s a pleasure to watch the smooth transitions taking place on Kris Stone’s adaptable set, the play itself loses some steam midway through Act II. It’s not that Expecting Isabel isn’t entertaining, it’s just that it’s so familiar, in a television sort of way, that it really doesn’t take us anyplace we haven’t probably been before. And it all goes on just a little too long.
Expecting Isabel continues in rotating repertory through April 25 at the Asolo; call 351-8000 or visit www.asolo.org.