Opening Nights: The Gene Pool

Well-intentioned caricatures instead of characters make this a shallow pool indeed.

If awards could be given for good intentions, the Arouet theater group's mounting of The Gene Pool would be in line for a baker's dozen. But in an economy where entertainment dollars are scarce, earnest efforts are simply not enough to carry the day. Christi Stewart-Brown's 1998 dramedy follows the strains facing a long-term lesbian couple whose son—born via donor sperm and artificial insemination—is about to reach his 18th birthday. To commemorate the big day, he wants two things: condoms and to meet his DNA daddy. So what's wrong here? For starters, the one-dimensional text, in which repeated exclamations of "fuckin' A" are supposed to be funny and reveal character. (They don't.) To make matters worse, Stewart-Brown's stumbling script offers fewer insights about modern parenthood and teen sexuality than your average television PSA. That the Washington, D.C.–based writer has had (according to the program notes) more than 40 productions of her work across the U.S and Canada, as well as performances in Scotland, turns out to be the evening's most stunning revelation—much more than the proceedings onstage. I have read more compelling scripts from community-college students. Granted, the author does seem to understand how to put characters in opposition, essential for any decent play. But, perhaps hoping to sympathetically portray a lesbian couple as normal (which they are to a fault, with all the same concerns many married couples face), Stewart-Brown renders these parents (played by Colleen Carey and Amelia Meckler) as little more than well-intentioned caricatures. Their son (Kyle Johnson) comes off as a horny, spoiled lunkhead who never once had to cook a meal and must ask his mommies to buy him rubbers because it would be just "too embarrassing." Arouet's scrappy cast does its amiable best with this twaddle, to mixed results. There isn't anything particularly funny here—unless you like to guffaw at a plus-sized gal in her underwear modeling a dress made from Saran Wrap. And when it comes time for the heavy drama (one member of the Gray family gets into some romantic trouble), the culprit goes glassy-eyed and looks at the floor. It will make you twitch in your seat. Had all this somehow worked, the plaudits would belong to Roy Arauz, who both found the play as producer and put it onstage under his direction. Unfortunately, The Gene Pool is a shallow one indeed. While I'll grant it an E for effort, watching the DVD of The Kids Are All Right at home will yield better results.

 
comments powered by Disqus