A Resounding Meh: A FUTURE PERFECT

Photo credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

Photo credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo. Beers were harmed in the making of this play.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Co.
Written by Ken Urban
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara

Jan. 9 – Feb. 7, 2015
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Inside every adult there is an 18 year old wondering what the Hell just happened. It feels like just yesterday you were a shy teenager prepping for college. You blink and there you are, 38 and wondering how you got into this mess. It’s a surprise to discover that we’re the adults now, the guys in charge. We’re the very people we protested against in our teens and 20’s and now we have to pretend it’s OK. While the initial money/freedom is nice, the rest feels like strange and unusual punishment for our childhood sins. Adulthood blows.

SpeakEasy’s production and premier of A Future Perfect explores this Generation X/Y/whatever experience. Max (Brian Hastert) and Claire (Marianna Bassham) are two 30-somethings living in Park Slope, Brooklyn at the height the Occupy Wallstreet (2011). They are married but childless having agreed to focus on their careers rather than extend their family. At a dinner and games night,  their friends, couple Alex (Nael Nacer) and Elena (Chelsea Diehl), reveal that they are having a baby. Like Yoko to the Beatles*, the baby threatens to break up the band literally and figuratively. Both couples cope with their sudden, yet predictable, diagnosis of adulthood and what their future would hold if a baby was added. The backbone of the plot is strung together with a kickass soundtrack featuring The Pixies, The Smiths, Joy Division, and Sonic Youth among others.

A Future Perfect uses the “man-child recognizes own mortality” trope to woo the audience into trusting its characters with their compassion. It engages us with a  predictable yet reassuring sitcom-like plot plus a bonus nifty, three-dimensional female character who also plays the necessary villain. This is a comedy with some arresting dramatic moments a la Knocked Up or How I Met Your Mother.

Max is an aging punk working at still grasping at the straws of his youth and relative irresponsibility while his wife, Claire, pays the bills. He writes his activist ideals into scripts for PBS. She markets things people don’t need to people who don’t want them. In a play about adults making and correcting mistakes while juggling pregnancy, Claire gets the unfortunate role of playing parent to her husband. We’re supposed to sympathize with Max as he discovers himself. This would be all well and good if Urban didn’t sacrifice our sympathies for Claire to convince us to do it. Instead, she’s made out to be a sellout disciplinarian, saying and doing the wrong things, while Max, Alex and Elena bicker. They get to whine about days of partying past while she stays an extra 3 hours at work.

Yet, the stability of Max and Claire’s relationship is refreshing. Urban writes them as a capable, mutually respecting couple that has problems but the drive to navigate them. They aren’t going to give up on each other just because they’ve hit a relationship snag. Despite their differing priorities, this couple clearly supports and loves each other. Now if only they were gay…

The set design by Cristina Todesco hits the perfect sweet spot between lived in and pristine. It conveys to the audience that Max and Claire are a couple who can clearly afford their chic Brooklyn condo but relive their college grunge days through their Crate and Barrel furniture. One could find it in the pages of a less-pretentious Anthropology catalog.

I did enjoy this production. The one-liners are punchy and much of the drama smacks of the truth. The soundtrack rocks. Writing flaws aside, the performances presented by the cast were sincere and evoked an entirely too relatable childlike innocence. These characters are mirroring what their audience members are, were or will go through and that requires skill. Adults are tall children who’ve been slowly but surely shaped into maturity by time. It is no small thing to effectively exhibit the exact moment one comprehends that their childhood is gone forever.  There is purity in their navel-gazing. Adulthood sucks a big one but A Future Perfect does not.

Disclaimer – This production will likely not be appreciated by anyone who hasn’t experienced the following: marriage, attending the weddings of at least 2 other friends, had a baby, watched as all of your friends had a baby/babies, doubted your marriage/mortgage/child, counted grey hairs in the bathroom mirror by the fistful, settled on adopting a dog or cat instead of having a baby, recoiled in horror after realizing that kids born while you were in college are now in college. This production will be relatable to people still recovering from the shock of having become their parents while they weren’t paying attention. Congratulations! And, I’m so sorry.
*I pretended to be a 90’s Riot Grrrl for the feminism but never got into the music.

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