Margot and Nate have dinner at Darcy and Leigh’s condo in Chicago. Before the two lesbian couples have dessert, Leigh wants to “wind down” the conversation — twin tirades about Michael Jackson’s place in American culture (The Kid Thing takes place shortly after his death in 2009) — and let the sweet tooth roam.
But Margot and Nate have an announcement. Margot is eight weeks pregnant. Leigh, who clearly wishes the same for her and Darcy, is elated. But contentious Darcy becomes reserved. She’s theoretically “neutral” on the subject, she says. She likes to see all sides of an issue and tries not to be “judgy.” But eight miles of subtext suggest that Darcy does not approve, in theory and, as Sarah Gubbins’s drama reveals, for deeply personal reasons as well.
A topic that could have sweetened the dessert — “people breed all the time,” Nate says — opens a Pandora’s Box of questions and issues. Who should be the “carrier”? Who the “donor”? Should the donor know?
Much more personal: Margot and Leigh are self-described “girly-girl” lesbians, while Nate and Darcy are self-described butch “dudes.” Will Darcy’s preference for “dude” clothing and close-cropped hair draw negative attention to the child?
Issues abound. The talky play not only hammers them, it also has the characters psychoanalyze each other on the spot (as when Nate tells Darcy she’s “so relentlessly unfulfilled” and that “Darcy has never experienced clarity” and suffers from “cataclysmic pessimism”). They also evaluate arguments for the audience. The issues are as crucial today as 2009 — much more so, in fact. But there are times when instead of drama, The Kid Thing feels like a staff meeting with arguments rehearsed in advance.
The Moxie Theatre production, expertly directed by Kym Pappas, overcomes most of the play’s urges to pre-digest the information. The design work, especially Sarah Mouyal’s attractive set (with a view of Sears Tower out the window) and Jennifer Brawn Gitting’s expressive costumes, is first-rate. And the performances are sharp and urgent.
Multi-skilled Katie Harroff gives Nate a relaxed, accepting manner, until crossed. New faces Sarah Karpicus (Leigh) and Anna Rebek (Margot) present agenda-free surfaces with turmoil and control issues below. Connor Sullivan’s Jacob, the donor/“bio-dad,” offers comic relief and also some concern, since Jacob lacks direction, even a viable map.
There are times when JoAnn Glover’s insistent voice as Darcy becomes too piercing (Darcy works for a PR firm and apparently leaves all positive thoughts at the office). But overall hers is a fully committed, fully felt gem. Darcy has deeper reasons for her reticence. In Glover’s excellent portrayal — and unlike a play rife with explanations for everything — the reasons may lie beyond definition.
Playing through December 11