GOOD EGG by Dorothy Fortenberry – Laba Theatre at the 14th Street Y – Off Broadway Theater Review

by Cindy Pierre on November 5, 2010

in Theater-New York

Post image for GOOD EGG by Dorothy Fortenberry – Laba Theatre at the 14th Street Y – Off Broadway Theater Review

TO GIVE BIRTH OR NOT TO GIVE BIRTH?

When it comes to family trees, there are those that we’d sooner shake out of there than pluck.  These days, you can make that statement with science! Presented by Red Fern Theatre Company, an organization that partners with a philanthropy with each new production, Dorothy Fortenberry’s Good Egg follows goody two shoes Meg (Andrea Day), a pathologically responsible single woman, as she wrestles with deciding whether to test her in vitro embryos for bipolar disorder against the wishes of her bipolar brother, Matt (Dan McCabe), a sort of twist on Jonathan Tolins’ play The Twilight of the Golds (where the issue was whether or not to give birth to a gay child). Despite a solid, thought-provoking premise and a touching sibling relationship, Good Egg is spoiled by the overuse of monologues and sometimes cyclical dialogue that disconnects you from the story instead of enhancing it.

With a pink, healthy-looking set that simulates a woman’s womb, scenic designer Scott Dougan’s sales pitch on babies is aggressive but works. Unfortunately, Fortenberry drives the point home even further with a lengthy intro delivered by Day.  As engaging as Day is, the opening monologue is so clinical and historical that it kills any excitement that you might have for the piece; but intellectual curiosity will compel you to keep watching.

Even though Matt’s illness is revealed too late (a third into the 90-minute drama), the disclosure marks the real beginning of not only the play but a great discussion about bio-ethics vs. nature taking its course.  Should Meg forego the test, thereby risking the possibility of mothering a child with the same affliction and unpredictability as her brother, or take the test to ensure a bipolar-free baby?  The stakes are not very high on the sensational chart, but with science and reason intermingling with some sharp familial banter, the audience is given enough to get their mental wheels turning until the argument gets revisited again and again and gets tiresome.  Then, the dialogue is reduced to nothing more than a rehashing of old themes, true to life but bad for entertainment value.

Fortunately, McCabe delivers a moving performance as he transitions from manic to even more manic phase when he goes off his meds.  Soon, the sweet childhood that sound designer Katherine A. Buechner recreates with her whimsical score is nothing but a memory.  Though Matt breaks down, he seldom strays too far from being a hurt little brother. In director Kel Haney’s hands and in the brighter parts of Fortenberry’s script, the audience understands bipolar disorder from all sides: observer, participant, creative, muted, pain, joy.

In a heated moment, Matt says to Meg that “when you have everything you want, sometimes you don’t like anything you get.”  Those words are powerful in a myriad of ways, all pointing to the value of restraint.  Just because you have the power and every reason to do something, that doesn’t mean you should. This show may not have gotten everything right, but regardless of what Meg chooses to do, it hits this sentiment right on the nose.

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Eliza Brown

scheduled to close November 7 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.redferntheatre.org

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