by Lynn on January 14, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Anna Chatterton
Directed by Andrea Donaldson
Set and costumes by Julie Fox
Sound by Mike Rinaldi
Lighting by Rebecca Picherack
Cast: Paul Brauntein
Nicola Correia-Damude
Philippa Domville
Rick Roberts

Playwright Anna Chatterton takes a story ripped from the headlines and puts her own perceptive spin on it.

The Story.  Within the Glass is based on a real incident that actually happened. A terrible mistake took place at a fertility clinic. Two couples—Scott and Linda and Darah and Michael, who don’t know each other– went to a fertility clinic for in Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments (the process by which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body, in vitro—‘in glass”).  The error is that the wrong fertilized egg was implanted into the wrong woman. Darah’s egg was fertilized by her husband Michael’s sperm in vitro and then accidentally implanted into Linda’s uterus, and not Darah’s.

This was Darah and Michael’s fifth try at getting pregnant. Time was running out for them.  Scott and Linda had one child already but wanted another. There were physical difficulties with Linda getting pregnant again so in vitro was the best option. When the wrong fertilized egg was implanted into Linda it took. She has just passed her first trimester.

The couples finally meet at Darah and Michael’s about four months after hearing of the blunder to discuss their options. Linda was told by her doctors she had two options, either to abort the baby or consider adopting another. She refused to consider both options. She had another plan which turned everything upside down in both marriages. Darah and Michael are desperate for a baby. They offer to adopt the baby Linda is carrying since they consider it their own.

Playwright Anna Chatterton examines the many sides of the dilemma, the personalities of the couples, the reasoning from all sides, and the emotions that explode over the 90 minutes of the play.

The Production.  Julie Fox’s set of Darah and Michael’s sumptuous living and dining room beautifully illustrates that they are comfortably off. The art on the walls and around the room is funky, although they don’t have a clue of the artist in one telling example. The furnishings are eclectic—there is a white side table in the shape of huge white books stacked at various angles on top of each other. The dining room table is beautifully set but the chairs don’t match. Darah manages a video game company. Michael is an investment banker. They are beautifully dressed for this momentous occasion—meeting the other couple and deciding what will happen to their unborn baby.

When Scott and Linda arrive, he is dressed in ‘grunge’ casual. Linda wears a blanket-wrap, thick tights and fashionable boots. When she takes off the boots her socks don’t match. Loved that touch. Scott is a published poet. Linda is an artist. Their lifestyle is no where as grand as Michael and Darah. Michael is in a well-made suit (but no tie) and Darah is in a smart form-fitting dress.

Michael (Rick Roberts) is all charm, eager to be a good host, anxious that this works out for him and Daragh. Darah (Philippa Domville) is high-strung, skittish, almost unable to calm down and focus.  When Scott (Paul Braunstein) and Linda (Nicola Correia-Damude) do arrive they too are on guard about the evening and are obviously on the defensive. Scott announces that they won’t be staying long. Linda seems to have other ideas. She will stay perhaps to be polite. She and Scott spar slightly. And when Linda announces her intentions the gloves come off and emotions spill over.

Director Andrea Donaldson stages Michael and Darah to suggest their anxiety and being unsettled. They fidget. As the audience files in Michael is there on the couch flitting from music selection to music selection on the sound system remote control. He doesn’t sit still. When the play begins, Darah scurries from place to place setting the table; preparing appetizers. As Michael, Rick Roberts is all suave charm, accommodating; ready to put on a positive face. As Darah, Philippa Domville frets. There are different things at stake for her. She’s a woman desperate to be a mother. Michael wants it too, but not as desperately as her.

It’s the women who are the focus of the play. The men try and be supportive and it’s questionable if they are. As Scott, Paul Braunstein is initially like a mono-syllabic lug. He doesn’t like the situation and wants to protect his wife. He’s wary and has an attitude. As Linda, Nicola Correia-Damude is dazzling in her nuance and subtle detail. This is a performance of a woman at the mercy of her raging hormones. Correia-Damude is riveting in her stillness as the other three characters rage around her. Correia-Damude reacts with a shift of her eyes or the hardening of her face. She is always thinking and her reactions are always startling.

Chatterton has given both Linda and Darah speeches in which they spill their guts in different ways about the importance of this baby. Very fine.

Comment. Parenthood, pregnancy, marriage, marital support and fertility technology are all mine-fields of emotions and playwright Anna Chatterton captures these beautifully in her emotion-charged play. She has taken an interesting, emotional issue and examined it and along the way so do we.

There is a lot of humour in the play. At times scenes seem to go on past their point being revealed. Perhaps a tightening is in order. I do have some questions that I don’t think were answered in Within the Glass. We are told that both couples went to the clinic for treatment and there is a suggestion that both Linda and Darah’s eggs were fertilized by their respective husbands. We know that Darah’s fertilized egg is wrongfully implanted in Linda. Where is Linda’s fertilized egg? This is Darah and Michael’s fifth try at having a baby. Darah says that her uterus just can’t hold a baby. Then isn’t this different from not being able to get pregnant—having an egg fertilized by a sperm in vitro and then implanted? Did I miss this in the play?

Within the Glass poses many and various questions of ethics, scientific technology regarding reproduction and the huge difference between a man’s and woman’s attitude towards pregnancy. My questions aside, the play gives you lots to mull over.

Tarragon Theatre presents.
Opened: Jan. 13, 2016.
Closes: Feb. 14, 2016.
Cast: 4; 2 men, 2 women
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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