I didn’t know what to expect from Expecting Isabel. The Idea that a comedy could be built around such a painful issue as infertility seemed like a pretty strange idea until Silver Spring Stage’s hysterical and incredibly touching production proved me wrong.
The plot is centered on Miranda (Sara Joy Lebowitz) and her husband Nick (Jay Lineberry), two New Yorkers nearing the age of forty who have been married for ten years. One day they decide to have a baby, which starts them on a jittery roller coaster of highs and lows. Their fertility treatments are unsuccessful and many potential adoptions fail. By the end we can tell that it is not just physical limitations, but a bundle of other problems that is causing their infertility. An ensemble of six hilarious actors play all kinds of roles, including adoption agents, Nick’s classic Italian family, and a superstitious infertile woman, who have the audience laughing more and with as every passing minute. The play will leave audiences inspired to overcome their fears in life. Playwright Lisa Loomer’s use of humor makes the show very relatable and fun to watch. Every moment is either filled with slapstick funniness or intense, heartwarming emotion, and anyone can relate to Miranda’s fear of risks in life.
Director Lennie Magida makes the show move at a quick pace. Each scene flows smoothly from one to the next. There is never a moment that seems too long and I was always tuned in to what was happening on stage. Magida manages to bring out the best in all the actors. Every performance was bright and each actor has his or her own moment to shine. The staging makes every setting very clear and multi-dynamic.
Set Designer Robert Thompson’s set design is simple and versatile which only enhances the smooth, fast transitions of each scene. It’s amazing how a few chairs and tables can so clearly be so many different things; a doctors office, three different apartments, a support group, a restaurant, and a park are just a few of the numerous settings shown throughout the play. There are small details here and there that give a hint of magic to the show. Baby pink and blue curtains in the background symbolize the root cause of the drama in this play. All the different characters need to be distinguishable in some way, and Costume Designer Harlene Leahy does a fine job providing quick, simple costume changes for all the actors. Lighting Designer Bob Scott and Sound Designer Jamie Coupar provide a design that is simply enchanting and effective, including a park scene where Coupar provided the sound of children playing.
The chemistry between Lineberry (Nick) and Lebowitz (Miranda) is most brought to surface during the most intense scenes, including the end of the first act when they decide to temporarily split up, or the scene when Nick lashes out that it is Miranda’s own insecurities that is causing their own form of “birth control.” Lineberry does an incredible job of building up his internal frustration with forceful passion when dealing with their inability to have a child. His choices come across as very honest and natural, and he embraces the humor quite well.
Lebowitz puts her heart into the role of Miranda, making her come across as afraid of being hurt and revealing how internally insecure she is with the way things may work out. She brings out a variety of different sides of the role, and overall drives home the message to stop letting your past make you fear your future.
The ensemble of six — Evelyn Cannon, Kathryn Johnston, Jerry Schuchman, Michael J. Fisher, Maile G. Zox, Emily Adler – plays over twenty different roles, and all the actors do an excellent job of distinguishing between each character through different physicalities, accents, and emotions to play off. All the different characters have their own quirks which add to the good time. Some of the most enjoyable moments are brought on by the talented Emily Adler. As one of the support group members who has a superstitious belief in the god of “O-shun,” she made me and some of the audience members fall out of their seats with laughter. Evelyn Cannon is priceless as the pridefully Catholic Yolanda, Nick’s mother. She completely nails the mindset of a mother who knows how to iron the guilt on to her child.
Expecting Isabel is a brilliant, moving, hysterical, and inspiring night for anyone who’s up for a whirlwind of a good time.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Expecting Isabel plays through February 2nd, 2013 at Silver Spring Stage in the Woodmoore Shopping Center – 10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.