|Marianna Bassham, Brian Hastert, Chelsea Diehl & Nael Nacer in "A Future Perfect"|
(photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)
Are we the people our parents warned us about? This question is at the heart of the current Speakeasy Stage Company production “A Future Perfect”. True to its expressed intent to focus more attention on new works by rising playwrights, Speakeasy’s latest presentation is the world premiere of this work by Ken Urban. At just under two hours without intermission, this tense and compelling story covers a lot of (you should excuse the expression) fertile ground, from having babies and/or careers, to love and sex, to dreams and values, to friendship and families, to aging and defining success. Life is presented as a jigsaw puzzle wherein each individual fits the various conflicting pieces together in a more or less coherent whole. As the playwright puts it, “how are we going to live up to our beliefs?” when there’s clearly a distinct disconnect between what your beliefs are when you’re in your twenties, and what stays with you as you mature.
The story takes place in the fall of 2011 (the program specifies “President Obama’s first term”) in a condominium in the upscale Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. The home is owned by two married thirty-somethings, Claire (Marianna Bassham), an advertising executive, and Max (Brian Hastert), a writer and puppeteer for a PBS series. They plan a get-together over takeout food with their married friends Elena (Chelsea Diehl) and Alex (Nael Nacer). When Elena turns down the offer of a glass of wine, Claire, with her typical bluntness, impulsively asks her if she’s pregnant. This serves as the catalyst for subsequent complex discussions of profound priorities as well as some shallow suppositions; for example, Max initially worries that his former bandmate Alex won’t be able to go to concerts with him anymore, while Claire bemoans the reality that the Occupy Movement believes in the same things they do, but they themselves don’t demonstrate or get arrested. This foursome consists of liberals who have angst about their parochial problems while savoring Thai food or pizza, with drinks from Whole Foods. At one point, in a brief scene with a child actress from Max’s PBS production, Annabelle (sharply played by Uatchet Jin Juch), Claire gives the girl advice that she is in reality giving to herself about the right priorities.
As Director M. Bevin O’Gara puts it, “they are to some extent all defined by the music they listen to”, thus music plays an important role in the storytelling, which displays a keen ear for realistic and natural dialogue, often overlapping the way normal conversation does in everyday life. O’Gara (who worked on the piece with Urban in a workshop setting) does a superb job (as she did with Speakeasy’s “Tribes” and “Clybourne Park”) with her quartet of fine actors. All four are totally believable, though the character of Elena could use some fleshing out; she’s a late comer to the trio’s older relationships, filled with shared memories and hookup points. Bassham especially gets to shine, as Claire is pivotal to the plot. The technical elements are all at the top of their game, from the trendy Set Design by Christina Todesco, to the Costume Design by Elisabetta Polito, Lighting Design by Jen Rock and Sound Design by Nathan Leigh.
The story may well resonate most with a couple who faces the decision between career and family, but anyone could extrapolate from the play about her or his choices. Toward the end of the play, Max sings his recently composed song, “Never Alone” (written by the playwright with his college friend Mike Robb Grieco) in which he states “you still want everything…simple comforts and the two of us together, never alone”. In this compelling and fascinatingly on-target work, Urban seems to be saying and singing, in the end, that life is a mixtape constructed by the choices you make along the journey.