It’s been a while since I went to the theatre, and tonight I witnessed it in a format I never have before: a simple reading.
The presentation of Father Unknown by Daniel Reitz was held on a stark, dark stage at The Ensemble Studio Theatre (hurrah for British spelling) on 52nd and 10th Ave.
Six actors read the text from recital stands and stayed seated, yet I didn’t even notice they weren’t moving. They somehow filled the stage from their chairs and had me gripped throughout – although every now and then they couldn’t resist an embrace or a cheeky caress.
The script was a great starting point for debate, as any successful play should be. It follows a lesbian couple and a single career woman who use the service of an elite sperm bank to conceive; not only can they pick a donor based on hair and skin color but also on alma mater, income bracket and mountains climbed. Cue lots of ethical questions. And when they search for other children borne by the donor, they find scores of half-siblings, leading them to each other and eventually the dad himself.
While it seemed the play’s path would be pretty predictable, it went ways I wasn’t expecting and yet stayed largely believable – with plenty of laughs thrown in.
There were a few issues with it, such as a lack of consistency with character and questions over how these ‘intelligent’ donors failed to foresee the potential outcomes of their donations. But It made me laugh, caught me off guard and the actors did a brilliant job of bringing it to life.
This was a great laid-back activity for a Monday night – professional actors, a top class playwright, a hidden gem of a theater space and all for free.