Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Samsara: the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.
Consider a scenario where an American couple hire a surrogate to carry their child to term and the unborn literally has a say in the matter. The witty fetus peppers the woman carrying him with questions about the world while his parents-to-be prepare for his arrival psychologically and emotionally. You now have the premise for the Chance Theater’s newest show Samsara. Fascinating on the surface, Samsara just isn’t that bold or innovative when you dig deeper inside.
Meet Katie. She’s a tense woman who is ready for a baby. Meet Craig. He’s a nervous man who isn’t really, but he is ready to make his wife happy so hey, why not? Together the two of them will struggle to conceive but discover there are other ways they can become parents–they can hire a surrogate from India. Now meet Suraiya. She’s the woman charged with carrying their baby to term while she prepares for a major exam. As the show progresses we watch the emotional journeys and the growth gleaned from their own experiences.
The stage is set in the Chance’s new theater space. It’s a very comfortable space that manages to avoid the cramped feeling that many small theaters give their patrons. For the purposes of the story the set is fine. Not elaborate, but it has no need to be. Much more memorable are the props, a few of which are introduced so abruptly one can’t help but laugh out loud. The acting from all of the performers is solid, but the characters they portray are not spectacularly memorable.
Samsara is an original story about something that can and does happen in the real world. In addition to the realistic, we have the portrayed embodiment of the fetus as a walking talking person with clearly defined opinions. This in and of itself is fascinating, and it gives the the fantastical element the story needs in order to be entertaining. However, despite the undeniably relevant subject matter the plot lacks subtlety. There is not really anything to think about, there is just a lot of presentation.”Look! They are sad. They want a baby. Look! She is sad. She is starting to love the baby she is carrying. Conflict”. There are some funny jokes but there are also a few that just drag Samsara down. For example, there is a certain running gag regarding the baby’s name that gets old much faster than the writers think it does. This joke continues throughout and while it was tolerable the first two times, it was completely stale by the end.
While I won’t give away the ending, I will say that the ending in many ways takes the easy way out in order to avoid having to answer the very difficult question that the characters and many people in the real world face. While I realize that there is often not an answer in the real world, Samsara’s challenging and exciting premise leaves you wanting a little more.
April 30-May 31st 2015