A Pleasant Surprise: EXPECTING

Danni, Mom, and Gabrielle at the mall — with Jo d'Angelo and Jenny Reagan., photo credit: Boston Actors' Theatre

Expecting by Noah Tobin, Boston Actors’ Theatre, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 3/30/12-4/7/12,    http://www.bostonactorstheater.com/.

Reviewed by Kate Lonberg-Lew

(Boston, MA) Have you ever found your cell phone lying on the back seat after ripping open the box of the replacement? Or perhaps you found your watch at the bottom of the hamper after strapping on your new Swatch? Somehow, we always manage to find what we’re looking for the moment we stop looking for it. This is what Expecting, currently at the Boston Actors Theater, is all about and the experience is wonderfully complex.

Fed up with waiting around for Mr. Right to have a baby, Gabrielle (Jennifer Reagan) goes through with a promise she made herself: artificial insemination. She is spurred on by Christian, (Patrick Massey) her fantasy sperm donor/Mr. Right all rolled into one. Meanwhile, Dani (Kate Mock Elliot), her “walking-cliché-of-a-sister”, is trying every trick in the book to find her the perfect match. And her mother, Sarah (Josephine d’ Angelo) is busy getting back in the dating game after the death of her husband. Enter, Marshall (Paul Ezzy) the flesh and blood, potentially-perfect Mr. Right. And it looks as though Gabrielle has found what she was looking for, but is it too late?

The set is cleverly minimalistic, amounting to little more then several blocks arraigned and rearranged to resemble everything from a couch to a movie theater, with a few props thrown in for good measure. This simplicity and the all-hands-on-deck-cast allow the frequent set changes to happen with relative speed. It could require too much imagination from the audience were it not for the superb job the actors do selling the scene.

Playwright Noah Tobin’s script is funny and authentic; imagine an 80’s sit-com with depth and heart. The characters fumble around a bit and, at times, possess comically bad timing. But Tobin surprises you by revealing the emotions underneath.  At a few points, the story begins to feel formulaic. At one point Tobin tips his hand, giving away a bit too much information, but this transgression is easily forgiven as it is followed with a delightfully unique scene. In fact, every time things start feeling a little stale, Tobin delivers a breath of fresh air. And he has guts to leave the most important question raised in the play unanswered.

Talented actors bring realism and dimension to the characters. Reagan does a lovely job with Gabrielle, making her both approachable and vulnerable. Eliot manages to round out the clichéd Dani. And Ezzy’s delivery of Marshall wins us over. If there is one trouble spot in this production, it’s the cast tends to jump the gun, moving on to a next line before waiting for a laugh or responding to each other too soon.

To sum up, Expecting is a lovely play the will keep you, well, expecting.

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