‘A Future Perfect’: 30-somethings at the crossroads
BOSTON — Is it possible to have both a thriving career and family? What does the decision to have or not have a child say about your values? Is the worth of a job or career tied to the size of a paycheck? What does friendship mean, and how does it change when a friend gets married, or when a child enters the picture?
The Speakeasy Stage Company is presenting the world premiere production of “A Future Perfect,” at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts, where playwright Ken Urban has crafted a smart, savvy comedy about 30-somethings at life’s crossroads.
He has his ear sharply attuned to the angsts of that age group making major — and sometimes long-delayed — decisions that involve setting priorities and balancing family, career and friendship.
Urban helps his quartet of characters — Claire (Marianna Bassham), husband Max (Brian Hastert), and Alex (Nael Nacer), all in their late 30’s who have been friends from college, and Elena (Chelsea Diehl), Alex’s wife, a few years younger — explore the pitfalls when friendships, family and career collide and compete in the 100-minute piece set in Claire and Max’s Brooklyn brownstone in the fall of 2011.
In some cases Urban has taken situations from his own life — the break up of an indie band after some members of the band had children — and transposed them onto his characters, although he takes pains to say the piece is not autobiographical.
Max and Alex were in a college band and still play together, and Urban uses the band as a metaphor to explain the transition from a time when they would go and camp out with the Occupy protestors of that time to the present, when that urge is replaced by the desire to make “adult” decisions on where they are going.
Claire is on the fast track at her marketing firm, buoyed by a recent promotion, while Max scuffles along writing pieces involving puppets for PBS. Alex is in a no-glam job selling life insurance while Elena has recently hooked on at Claire’s firm with Claire‘s help.
The four have gathered for dinner and games but events go downhill after Elena’s simple decision to forego a glass of wine — which leads to the revelation of a pregnancy and a comment from Claire about the timing of the pregnancy. “I mean, you just got your foot in the door. And the chance for promotion. I mean. I don’t know if the time is right for you to –”
After her husband objects, she follows with “No, Max, I’m just pointing out, promotion first, then–”
The strong implication: Now that women are finally cracking through the glass ceiling that held them in check for so long, how can they go back to putting their career in the back seat for a family?
And how will Elena be able to put in the extra time — away from family — to secure her job and a promotion?
The two couples know that the dynamics of their relationship will change forever, and Urban reinforces that with misunderstandings between spouses and couples and many bumps and bruises along the way, the most intense being Max’s reaction when his self-esteem is shattered by the loss of his iob — low-paying it might be.
Music and sound play an important role in “A Future Perfect.” Urban is a musician and learned sound programs so he could install music in his productions at a time when the producer couldn’t afford to hire a sound designer, and his own composition with Mike Robbgrieco — “Never Alone” from Urban’s band Occurrence — is a part of the piece’s soundtrack.
Director M. Bevin-O’Gara and Urban have a longtime working relationship, and it helps. They appear to be on the same page when it comes to use of music, and the look and feel of the play.
This is a piece that should speak very strongly to almost everyone under 40, and Speakeasy Stage is offering discounts to younger theater-goers with information on the website.
“A Future Perfect” has an excellent cast — young Uatchet Jin Juch also has a small but telling scene as a child actress working with Max — and sharply-written dialogue that rings true.
Urban will insert some plot twists that shouldn’t come as a shock — he will have already left a bread-crumb trail of what’s coming — and crafts an ending that is cautiously optimistic and says that things will be OK, no matter what decisions are made, which you could see a as a bit of a cop-out on his part.
The Speakeasy Stage Company world premiere production of Ken Urban’s “A Future Perfect.” Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara. Scenic design by Cristina Todesco. Costume design by Elisabetta Polito. Lighting design by Jen Rock. Sound design by Nathan Leigh. Through Feb. 7 in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts. www.speakeasystage.com.