2008: A performance play in five acts
By Kendra Stanton Lee
with a nod to Susan Orlean
Act I: Birth
A handsome social worker answers the page and goes to the hospital at midnight, leaving his wife at home to breath through a deepening set of contractions. The irony is not lost upon the audience. Moments later, the social worker is at the hospital and receives a call. It is his wife. Buckets of water pour from the rigs up high. Symbolism! “My water broke, but I’m not in labor so take your time,” she says. The social worker moves between one hospital setting to the next. Comedy! The wife sits on a birthing ball. The wife paces the floor. The wife gives the nurses her book report on Eat Pray Love. The social worker husband takes a fitful nap. A dancing set of penguins in tuxedos cha-cha into the birthing room and offer an assortment of tea, cookies, and epidural. The wife chooses the epidural. A large clock winds in centerstage. Symbolism! The wife mock barfs and a nurse cries, Her temperature is 108! The wife is wheeled into a shop class where students in scrubs are making birdhouses and Amish benches with saws. She asks many important questions of the students, like, “Can I have some lip balm, it’s cold and dry in here.” The students tell her everything will be okay, she’s been through a lot, and by the way, she had a baby girl with big feet. The baby lets out a very loud cry, not unlike her mother’s. The first performance receives rave reviews. Various visits from several of the major donors follow.
Act II: Show and Tell
The new parents hold the new baby up like Simba on Pride Rock- only not so similarly so as to risk plagiarism – and then yank the child back. “Look, don’t touch,” they say in unison. The new parents default to perma-grins. Puppies jump over a rainbow in the backdrop. (Symbolism!) “She’s so cute,” the parents say, over and over. “She looks like me,” the parents say. The audience looks bored, with the exception of the major donors. “That’s the point,” says the director, satisfiedly.
Act III: Sleep
Zombies walk robotically across the stage. (Symbolism!) The baby cries. The mother wakes. “It is 1p.m., time to start our day!” she says, her enthusiasm questioned by the audience. The baby feeds. The mother looks at a calendar and asks, “Is it a freak leap year? Because yesterday was January 31 and today it is March 13!” The husband calls and asks for the 320532539082nd time how everything is going at home. The wife says she is hungry and can he bring home some sushi and KFC and a pumpkin pie? The baby smiles and says Noogoonoogoonoogoonoo. The husband arrives home on his bike with all of the rations. (Comedy!) The baby sleeps in her crib. The wife sleeps in the bottom of the bucket of KFC. The husband hides in the bathroom reading five months worth of ESPN the Magazine.
Act IV: Forgetting
The wife looks at a cart of merchandise from Target. “I didn’t pay for half of this?!” she says, incredulous. The baby laughs. The wife smacks her forehead. “I forgot to turn the oven off when I left the house!” The baby does a raspberry. The wife calls her husband on the phone. “You left your sandwich on the counter this morning. And then I left it there, too, even though I was supposed to bring it to you. Do you still want it?”
Act V: Remembering
The wife looks at pictures from the last year. She gets misty-eyed, even at the pictures of her face looking like a topographic road map and her pants covered in Desitin. The father sleeps for the first time in a year. The baby stands and says, “George,” and hugs her stuffed monkey. It is too early yet for her to know how to take a bow.