Imagine a world in which, within the first few months of pregnancy, you’re able to know how your unborn child will look and behave — if they will have brown eyes, dimples, a sweet disposition, or a rebellious streak.
In Jacqueline Goldfinger’s dark comedy, Babel, expectant parents can have all of these answers as early as the first trimester thanks to a new genetic test. But these labs don’t only reveal physical characteristics and temperament — they can also determine if the child will be a “good” or a “bad” person. And if the results forecast an “undesirable” outcome, expectant parents have a decision to make: should they start over, or wait and see?
“Babel explores questions like, ‘Why do some people have different DNA than others, and what are the proclivities that define good from bad?’” said show director Catherine Randazzo. “And, ‘How do we continue to move forward with DNA and genetic research without messing with the divine order?’”
While Babel explores large scale topics like modern eugenics and morality, the play is really focused on the highly-human stories of two couples: Renee & Dani and Ann & Jamie. When these long-time friends become pregnant at the same time, each couple must decide how to move forward once they are presented with their respective test results.
For playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, the inspiration for this play was personal.
“When I got pregnant—I now have 10-year-old twins—we got some [negative] test results back from our doctor,” said Goldfinger. “Luckily everything’s fine, but it was exactly that. It was getting these test results, coming home, going down the Google rabbit hole of, ‘What does this mean? What could it mean?’”
FST has played a key role in the development of Babel. The theatre nominated Goldfinger for the Smith Prize for Political Theatre in 2017 for her idea behind the play, which she won. FST and Goldfinger then started developing the play over the next few years before sharing it with Sarasota audiences as part of the National New Play Network’s (NNPN) 2019 Women in Playwriting Festival.
Since then, Babel has been produced at four theatres across the country as part of NNPN’s Rolling World Premiere program, which gives playwrights, like Goldfinger, the opportunity to develop new work with multiple creative teams.
“I’m thrilled that Babel has finally found its way to the FST stage! This play would not exist without Florida Studio Theatre, and I am excited to share our work with their audience,” said Goldfinger.
Called “A startling collision between the goofy and the deadly serious” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Babel blends quirky characters—like a pot-smoking stork that talks—with more weighty themes, like the ethics of reproductive technology.
“There is a lot of love and humor in this play,” said Rachel Moulton (Maytag Virgin (2022), Wednesday’s Child (2019), Curious Incident… (2019), Honor Killing (2018), and many others), who plays Dani, a headstrong and determined senior executive who wants her baby to be perfect.
“There’s no judgment in this play, which makes for a very accessible exploration of how these four characters react to the reproductive technological developments in this dystopian, not-so-distant future.”
Anique Clements (The Nether and Kunstler, 2020) plays Renee, a kind-hearted woman who wants to be a loving wife and mother, but is caught between what she wants and what she thinks is available to her.
Lucy Lavely (FST debut) and Tom Patterson (Cherry Docs, Hand to God, 2019) play Ann and Jamie—respectively—Dani and Renee’s best friends who also have a baby on the way. Like Dani, Ann wants their baby to be perfect. Jamie, on the other hand, sees the beauty and possibility in imperfection.
From questions of perfection vs. imperfection, control vs. chance, and good vs. bad, Babel asks some of the same questions human beings have been asking themselves for thousands of years, but with a strong dose of comedy sprinkled on top.
“I think one of the reasons this play has been so popular is that it strikes a nice balance between the comedy and the drama,” said Goldfinger. “Just what life really is.”
Babel is now playing in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre. For tickets and more information, click here.
Header Image: Lucy Lavely, Tom Patterson, Rachel Moulton, and Anique Clements. Photo by John Jones.