In her new play “Babel,” which launches a long-delayed new season of Florida Studio Theatre’s Phase 3 series, Jacqueline Goldfinger poses some provocative, challenging, and difficult personal questions about the future of the human race.
FST helped develop the play and planned to first produce it as part of the National New Play Network’s circulating world premiere program two years before COVID closed theatres. FST is now the last of the six theaters to stage the play, and it comes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which could change perceptions of the story since Goldfinger began writing it.
It is set in the near future where genetic testing can identify potential behavioral problems just weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. Voters agreed that women would be forced to terminate their pregnancies through an injection if tests showed their child was predisposed to certain behaviours.
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Couples face difficult problemsFST Phase 3 Presents Genetics Drama With “Babel” Premiere
The idea is to create a more perfect society by letting doctors and the government play God. In her story about two couples and close friends who are expecting at the same time, Goldfinger points out that you can believe one thing widely and feel differently when he gets home, when your future child’s life is at stake. The word abortion is not mentioned. Goldfinger tackles broader issues in this 75-minute play.
Renee and Danny, a gay couple, have been trying to conceive for eight years and are faced with some harrowing decisions once they take those initial tests, while their best friends Ann and Jamie are giddy about their unexpected pregnancy. But this happiness does not last.
As presented by Kathryn Randazzo, the production brings some heart and humanity to issues that can come as debate. It takes some unusual volatility to ask about scientific developments and how much we can predict about future behaviour. There’s even a sci-fi allusion with the arrival of a comic stork that visits Renee.
Rachel Moulton plays Dani as responsible and controlling, going to unexpected lengths to get what she wants, leaving you wondering what her genetic testing might look like.
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You might have questions about Jimmy (played by Tom Patterson), who backs him with an edge because he’s hiding something from Ann (Lucy Lovely). His backstory seems a little muddled, but he’s somewhat of an alternative to the way Goldfinger questions advances in genetic testing.
Moulton and Annick Clements as Renee are warm, supportive, and loving at first, but the pressure and stress of their new reality creates tensions that are recognizable to almost any couple. Renee Clements is down-to-earth and down-to-earth as Danny Moulton begins to fall apart.
As Jimmy, Patterson does a good job of navigating an unusual profile, presenting himself as one thing when he could be another. Anne Lovely is excited and happy at first but as the story progresses, she becomes more uptight and nervous, understandably, even if she’s not sure why.
Randazzo keeps the pace brisk without pushing while the story takes place on a mostly barren set with a couple of black boxes representing different furniture and locations. Fashion designer Mary Taylor Floyd’s idea of what we’ll be wearing in the near future is something like the flowing robes of ancient Greece. The clothes are just enough to give you a sense of a different time and place.
The story is often captivating and sometimes disturbing. Goldfinger skillfully avoids hitting a point. It allows the characters the crowds to think and leaves them with plenty to talk about on the way home, which is what the Stage III series was designed for.
By Jacqueline Goldfinger. Directed by Catherine Randazzo. Revised Jan. 20 through Feb. 10 at Florida Studio Theatre’s Bowne Lab Theatre, 1265 First St. Sarasota. Tickets from $18 to $39. 941-366-9000; floridastudioteater.org
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