“EXPECTING ISABEL” DELIVERS
Lisa Loomer’s “Expecting Isabel” couldn’t be timelier for director Jennifer Eve Thorn. Thorn, founding mother along with Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg, and Jo Anne Glover and mother of one is expecting her second offspring any second now!
Loomer’s modern day answer to infertility, “Expecting Isabel”, is on target bringing to light the plight of any and all couples experiencing the need to have a biological child in their lives and cannot for various and sundry reasons (not the least of which is one partners sperm just can’t seem to make its way to the other partner’s egg) conceive the good old fashioned way.
Throughout the evening we are taken on a rollercoaster ride as we follow the story of Miranda and Nick in their efforts to conceive. What is in some cases doing what comes naturally, for these two becomes a thing of angst that almost ruins a good old-fashioned marriage.
Miranda (Jo Anne Glover) and Nick (Stephen Elton) have been married for ten years. He is an artist, a sculptor and painter. She works for a greeting card company making up sayings that appear on sympathy cards. He comes from an average middle class Italian family from the Bronx and her roots are (not that she’s a believer) Episcopalian.
They own their own place in an upscale area of New York and for all intents and purposes, are happy together. Out of the blue, Nick suggests they have a baby to complete their lives.
At first Miranda is skittish about the idea signaling that she is perfectly happy with their lives, as they know it. She worries about genetics, overpopulation and life changes. He’s convinced it’s the right thing to do. Nick prevails by persuading her that their biological clock is winding down he’s close to forty and he thinks now would be as good a time as any to begin a family. The odyssey of their trying to conceive begins.
In Act I Miranda narrates the story telling us, the audience, in an often moving, cute, funny and descriptive account of the events as she recalls them of their plight to get pregnant. We watch the two begin in earnest working together to make this baby thing happen. Glover is most convincing as in one short scene after another she describes sometimes very emotionally the rollercoaster ride they experience by trying everything possible to get pregnant.
Elton’s Nick is helpful, sympathetic, kind and lends support by going along with every suggestion from collecting sperm to counting active sperm to Miranda’s injections as well as being with Miranda at every doctor visit she makes in their effort to conceive.
As the mounting frustration and disappointment of not getting pregnant begins to take its toll on the pair they decide to separate, take a break from each other and go back to living with their respective families. It is at this juncture that we get a true glimpse into what these two have either run away from or might be looking at if and when they ever have a child of their own.
Her mom Lila (Robin Christ) is an alcoholic and before she moved back home Miranda worried that it will be a genetic minus for their child. She is even more convinced as she sees her mother on a daily basis. Robin Christ a regular face at New Village Arts Theatre is making her Moxie debut in Loomer’s comedy/drama and she is terrific. She takes advantage of every opportunity to look and sound like an airhead drunk with a martini glass permanently fixed in her hand.
His family, Mom, Yolanda (Rhona Gold is so damned funny as the Italian Mom. She has played every ethnic personality. But that’s the glory of Gold, who has been part of the San Diego acting landscape for as long as I can remember. Aside from her too many to name roles in San Diego she has also appeared in staged readings of a number of plays by Allan Havis.
She, along with the rest of the support cast play no less that twenty-four different characters. They are all excellent and each and every one of them makes this play rock. As the parents (Mark Petrich is Sal his cigar smoking father) and family of Nick each of the siblings is beyond funny. They typically pull the stereotypical race card in their objections to what Nick is doing and one can almost forget (for a short while) the sad plight of these two struggling young people while we get absorbed in their families day to day objections.
Along with Petrich, brother Dominic (Justin Lang), sister and sister in law (Sandra Ruiz) and (Amanda Cooley Davis) they are a force to be reckoned with but Nick persuades himself that they are ‘normal’ with no genetic defects except for a few prejudices which he’s convinced he can overcome. Their Thanksgiving dinner is one of the highlights of a family ‘gathering’ and one funny shtick skit.
Loomer uses broad strokes to characterize the family and the rest of the support groups and workers the couple needs to make this thing work. Doctors, nurses, social services and eventually possible adoptive mothers are paraded in and out as the young folks make their way toward their eventual goal.
Both Glover and Elton are most engaging and on target while their story moves from hope to hopelessness as their modest plan takes on a life of its own, one they never dreamed of. According to Thorn, the play is more about what life has planned for us rather than what our plan for our life is about.
By the end of Act I they are now on a different path and that is one of adoption. At this point Nick has intervened in the story telling letting us know that Miranda has wandered a bit in her telling of the events and in Act II he narrates the plight of adoption and a whole new set of standards applies. The story goes on a bit too long, there are the same set of obstacles, different support groups and different politics involved with a politically different set of standards but “Expecting Isabel” delivers.
Mia Bane Jacobs all in one set design in the old Cygnet space is simple. In the center of the stage is a huge cabinet which when opened acts as a vertical bed where Nick and Miranda begin their journey of baby making. Four sets of curtains on the diagonal are used for wheeling stools, tables, chairs and some equipment on and off the stage as the scene changes from Dr’s offices to Nick’s parents home to Miranda’s Mom’s place to their own surroundings come fast and sometimes furious. Corey Johnston’s costumes are pretty much your average every day attire and Ashley Jenks lighting and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design round off the excellent technical support of Moxie’s first new play in their new digs.
Where: “Expecting Isabel” continues through Feb 2nd at the Roland Theatre at 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Opening Night $35.00
Friday, Saturday, Sunday $25.00
EVERY THURSDAY $20.00
DISCOUNTS: Seniors, Students, Military, AASD $20.00
***Pay What You Can Night
HOW: By phone: 858-598-7620
Lisa Loomer, Moxie Theatre, Allan Havis, Rhona Gold, Jennifer Eve-Thorn, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Mark Petrich, Jo Anne Glover, Stephen Elton, Ashley Jenks, Matt Lescault-Woods, Cygnet Theatre, Rolando Theatre, Robin Christ.