If an episode of Black Mirror took on the eugenics debate, you'd get Jacqueline Goldfinger's Babel. It's no wonder that this performance is produced by The Constructivists; in line with much of their work, this script asks the hard questions and thrives in the gray area.
Babel posits a near-future society in which individuals, marriages, and even pregnancies can be certified and, in doing so, opted into certain privileges in life. On the flip side, those who are deemed uncertifiable - genetically predisposed to any perceived flaws or failures - are either discouraged from moving forward, terminated in pregnancy, or if all else fails, cast to the outskirts of society to pass beside but never live among the certified.
Ashley Oviedo (Ann) and Logan Milway (Jamie); Sarah Harris (Set Design), Ellie Rabinowitz (Lighting Design), Les Zarzecki (Set Construction).
Dani (Maya Danks) and Renee (Nicole McCarty) are expecting a child but, when faced with their uncertified predicted behaviors, instead must make a choice: is it kindness to prevent pain, or is it kindness to ease it? As they scuffle over their decision, they face judgement from friends Jamie (Logan Milway) and Ann (Ashley Oviedo). Lastly, it doesn't help that Renee is plagued by frequent and aggressive visits from a crass stork.
This ensemble is a powerhouse. As each character is driven to examine themselves through their innate beliefs, the cast weaves through manic highs of erratic behaviors and the desolation of loneliness. Danks and McCarty lead the force with opposite energies. Danks plays the enterprising and, at times, cold Dani, who seems to be a perfect puzzle piece to the empathetic yet full of conviction Renee. Their clashes emulate the debates and arguments of real life couples, filled with love and still doomed to hurt one another. Milway and Oviedo are endearing, and through the rises and falls of their confrontations, the immense emotional distance between Jamie and Ann remains palpable.
Constructivists artistic director and director of this production, Jaimelyn Gray, shares her personal connection to the piece in a particularly moving director's note. Gray's own courage to face the unknown in spite of expert predictions shines through Babel. The result is an unwavering glance into all of the considerations a parent must make for their child, sometimes even before their child exists.
Performed without an intermission, Babel provides unrelenting tension through gripping drama. The silly interludes of bird visits allow for a breath of air while still building into the story and what's at stake. While the word eugenics carries a strong connotation in modern society, Goldfinger's script legitimizes all sides of the issue and lifts the curtain on how eerily close we may be getting. Catch Babel at the Broadway Theatre Center Studio through April 2nd.