In the popular 19th-century fairytale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the first bowl of porridge was too hot, the second was too cold, but the third was just right. In the field of astrobiology, the “Goldilocks Zone” is the relatively limited distance from a star in which an orbiting planet or its moons can sustain life, because the temperature within that narrow range of space is not too hot and not too cold for water, necessary for life as we know it, to remain liquid. In Passage Theatre Company’s world-premiere production of playwright Ian August’s THE GOLDILOCKS ZONE, the conditions needed for a post-modern couple to create life are no longer as limited as they once were, with the expanding configurations of the contemporary family and advances in assisted reproductive technology. If you really want to have a baby, but are unable to do so through the traditional method, you now can by way of a sperm donor, in vitro fertilization, or surrogacy. But is your life partner as obsessed with becoming a parent as you are, and shouldn’t he/she be included in the decision and in the process?
Such are the issues confronting Franny (Jessica DalCanton) and Ray (Trent Blanton), a 30-something married couple who postponed having a child until she completed her Master’s degree. Now that the time is right and her biological clock is ticking down, Ray has been diagnosed with a double epididymal obstruction and they are unable to conceive. Like Franny, Andy (Andy Phelan) is desperate to have a child, but has never discussed it with Matt (Dan Domingues), his partner of five years. As the two strangers Franny and Andy turn to the social media to pursue their common desire and long-held “assumption that parenthood was a basic part of life,” they come together to share a secret bond that threatens their respective relationships and results in their personal orbits colliding. Can they fulfill their dreams of having a family by merging science (and, ultimately, logic) with instinct? Can their significant others settle their differences and make life-changing sacrifices for the happiness of the ones they love? And will they succeed in leaving “a lasting impact on the world” that will be mutually acceptable and satisfying to all four?
August’s complex structure of direct address monologues, couples’ dialogues, and alternating parallel discussions requires precise timing in both the direction and delivery of the script, and director Damon Bonetti and his cast don’t miss a beat as the four distinct characters’ reveal their innermost thoughts and backstories, consider their options, and re-evaluate their inter-relationships. The multilevel set design (Matthew R. Campbell) visually reinforces the protagonists’ separate spaces, the partners’ shared living quarters, and their intersection, as Bonetti’s skillful blocking moves them in and out of alignment with one another, with spotlights (Paul Kilsdonk) creating a globe of illumination around each, akin to heavenly bodies negotiating the dark space of the cosmos. There are moments of wit (“He’s not offering his sperm to save the whales”), moments of tension (“Are you blackmailing us?”), moments of elucidation (“I didn’t think this through”) and understanding (“I want you to be happy again”) in this very current look at the possibilities of parenting and the search for new answers in our increasingly limitless age. [205 E. Front St., Trenton, NJ] May 14-31; www.passagetheatre.org.