BOTTOM LINE: This play remains compelling from start to finish thanks to a well written script and strong performances from the entire cast.
Considering the title to Carroll Gardens Aborning, I was expecting a comedy about uber successful yuppies and stroller brigades of wealthy moms and their nannies. However, the characters in this play are not quite so financially stable, nor are they quite so sure that parenthood is a choice that they want to be making. Rather their careers, feelings about parenthood, and desire to be in their relationships are all wavering and nebulous.
The play opens with Lily (Nika Ezell Pappas) paying a late night visit to her friend Angelica (Melissa Rosenberger). Lily is in her late twenties and pregnant, up all night after chasing her strange food cravings and trying to shake off her anxiety about her pregnancy. Angelica is also equally anxious, trying to pump out the breast milk that is leaking through her t-shirt. We soon learn by piecing together the clues in the conversation that Angelica was about to become a new mother but lost the baby. Lily, meanwhile, is pregnant by her dominating Albanian boyfriend Izzy (Reuben Barsky), who seems apt to run back to his native country at any moment. She tells Angelica that his behavior sometimes veers towards abusive and that he sent her a text offering her $20,000 to abort their baby. As Angelica has been through two pregnancies and is in her forties, she tries offering Lily her advice and direction stemming from her greater life experience.
When Angelica’s husband Hank (James Fauvell) appears on stage in the next scene we see how tense and unhappy their marriage is, especially after suffering the loss of a child. Angelica storms in with the groceries while Hank is trying to masturbate to porn on the living room couch, he refuses to help Angelica clean up and unpack as he is trying to hide his open fly and belt. A fight ensues about attending to the most mundane of domestic tasks. The play jumps back in time in a later scene and we see Angelica and Hank in a happier time with Angelica discovering that she is pregnant for the first time. Angelica is unsure if she evens wants to be a mother and it is Lily (who has only just met her) that tells her that she is at the right place in life to be having a child.
Both Lily and Angelica have their lives torn apart by pregnancy, Angelica by circumstances outside of her control and Lily due to being in a less than ideal situation. Angelica is so torn apart by losing her baby that she resents Lily, while Lily resents Angelica for having a more stable life and a husband who cares about her.
Carroll Gardens Aborning Is a highly engaging play that held my interest from start to finish, due in part to the complex characters, unusual plot, and strong performances from all of the actors. James Fauvell and Melissa Rosenberger give particularly intense performances as a married couple trying to find their way back to each after suffering a loss. Rosenberger’s performance is especially strong at the end of the play as she attempts to rekindle the sexuality and affection within herself that fizzled out in the face of tragedy. She captures both the vulnerability of her character and her sharp, confident façade that she uses to keep the world away.
The dialogue in Lawerence Dial’s script feels authentic, capturing the sometimes befuddled and inarticulate manner people speak in during life’s most dramatic moments. The crises of the characters are dealt with a nuanced and realistic way without elaborate speeches, just honest raw emotion. Interestingly, there are no scenes between just Lily and Izzy so we are left to conjecture as to what their relationship might truly be like, we only know as much as the characters Hank and Angelica do, showing us the characters through their eyes. Carroll Gardens Aborning is an intriguing play that captures the uncertainty many of us go through as we try to etch out a life for ourselves, trying to adapt when it doesn’t quite go as planned.
(Carroll Gardens Aborning plays at Teatro SEA, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 23, 2013. The remaining performance is August 23rd at 5PM. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door and can be purchased at fringenyc.org or call 866.468.7619.)