02 March 2016
Well Born is a new play by Celeste Percy-Beauregard (SoCo Theatre/Truth’n’Lies), co-directed by Michelle Alexander and Darwin Lyons and currently playing at Artscape Youngplace. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down in the slightly cramped audience space in what felt like (and probably was) an old classroom. Happily, what followed was one of the best pieces of indie theatre that I have seen in a very long time.
The play centers on two main characters, Elizabeth and Chris, played by Sophia Fabiilli and Michael Musi. The background story of romance, dating, and marriage is enacted to music, showing us (in a clowning way) the traditional narrative of the couple’s history. The real story begins when they discover that not only is Elizabeth pregnant, but that there may be an indeterminate ‘complication’ with her unborn baby. What follows is a story about a couple wrestling with their expectations and unexpected prejudices, trying to figure out how to trust each other, and trust themselves. Elizabeth’s story has another layer: she is adopted, and doesn’t know much about her medical history. In her attempts to track down more information, she encounters an unexpected revelation about her biological family.
The story is a timely one, and less to do with pro-choice considerations so much as it addresses the ways in which we perceive disability. The script is straightforward but nuanced, mixing depth and humour in what ends up being a touching and entertaining show. Elizabeth’s journey to discover more about her biological family and all of the extreme stories she imagines before she confronts the reality resonate with me, an adopted person, as does her struggle between the blissful comfort of not knowing and the need to find out more about where she comes from.
Fabiilli and Musi do an excellent job as Elizabeth and Chris, but the entire cast works wonderfully as an ensemble. Nikki Duval and Astrid Van Wieren really show us their talent in their versatility as they play a host of supporting characters, both serious and silly. The direction of the show is outstanding. The score and set changes are fluid and elegant, wonderfully choreographed and another example of how this cast works wonderfully as a team. The set changes also show creativity and elegance within a rather restricted and plain space. It is actually really difficult to pick out any one thing about this production that is more remarkable than the others, since it achieves the rather rare feat of being uniformly strong.
My criticisms are only minor, the main one being that since it is such a small space, some of the yelling between Elizabeth and Chris could be taken down a notch, since the intensity could be conveyed without needing to hit a high volume every time. But really that is a minor flaw, as this play takes the audience on a wonderful journey into a well-crafted world that had me both laughing out loud and tearing up. Even if you see only one play this winter, I suggest you see this one. It will be worth it.