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A Very Common Procedure

Courtney Baron's flawed yet intriguing drama centers around a young couple and their doctor, brought together in an unexpected fashion. logo
Lynn Collins, Amir Arison and Stephen Kunken
in A Very Common Procedure
(© Joan Marcus)
"Babies don't die." That's what one of the characters initially believes in Courtney Baron's A Very Common Procedure, the latest offering from Manhattan Class Company. But sometimes they do; and this flawed but intriguing drama examines the aftermath of this brutal reality for both the grieving young parents, Carolyn and Michael Goldenhersch (Lynn Collins and Stephen Kunken), and the doctor, Dr. Anil Patel (Amir Arison), who performed the surgery.

Carolyn, who finds herself on maternity leave without a baby to take care of, instead spends her time obsessing over and then pursuing Patel. The romance that blossoms between them is unexpected, and defined by both the exoticism that Carolyn projects onto the Indian-American physician and the desperate hope that this will help her to make sense of her aching loss.

All three characters frequently break the fourth wall to talk to the audience, revealing background exposition as well as confessing their innermost thoughts, doubts, and desires. The complicated emotions they have towards one another are also expressed, particularly by Michael and Carolyn who often narrate together. For the most part, this structure works, although occasionally it feels as if the playwright is telling the audience what to feel more than she's allowing them to experience it.

The show's technical elements, such as Tyler Micoleau's moody lighting and Fabian Obispo's original music and sound design work on a more subliminal level to guide the audience's emotions. Robin Vest's set design, which includes sliding units to suggest different locations, and Miranda Hoffman's costumes also help to convey the story.

The cast, under the capable direction of Michael Greif, performs quite well. Collins pushes a little too hard in her first aside to the audience, but after that she effectively conveys Carolyn's grief and confusion. Kunken wonderfully underplays his lines in a manner that is both charming and naturalistic. At the same time, he communicates Michael's frustration and rage that eventually bubbles to the surface.

Although the playwright provides quite a bit of background information on Anil, the character still feels the least defined. It's unclear how much of the blame for this should fall on Arison, who does a good job hinting at the insecurities and vulnerability that lay behind his character's more confident outward demeanor. He can also be quite funny, as demonstrated by Anil's efforts to get audience members to make a fist in order to show the size of a human heart.

While it's evident that Baron wants to convey that not even the characters always understand their own motivations, that doesn't really excuse the lapse in logic that brings all three together in a visitor's lounge at the hospital so that Anil can explain to Michael and Carolyn the (literal) workings of the heart. The scene escalates into a climax that feels forced and melodramatic. The machismo suddenly demonstrated by Michael and Anil also comes across as rather ludicrous. Thankfully, it's followed by a coda delivered by Carolyn to the audience that ends the play in a more satisfying and extremely poignant fashion.

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