About Face Theatre’s ‘The Kid Thing’ is a thoughtfully conceived conversation starter

The cast of About Face Theatre’s “The Kid Thing”

For most of my young adult life, the concept of wanting kids totally eluded me. It wasn’t even worth discussing with my partner of 10-plus years because I couldn’t even imagine it. And, to some extent, neither could he. Then, not too long ago, the discussion changed. It went from not talking about it to me saying things like, “Kids? We’re not ready — financially, mentally, emotionally.” To which he’d reply, “Well, who’s ever ready for kids? It’s never the right time.”

Now, I’m not saying we’re going to adopt any time soon (calm down, mom), but it’s funny how “the kid thing” kind of creeps up on you. As you get older, you start to think about your opportunities and how they’re racing by so quickly. You either make these decisions now, or, before you know it, it’s too late. And even if you wanted to do it, are you, as part of a gay couple, equipped to raise a child in this society?

Rebeka Ward-Hays and Kelli Simpkins in About Face

Sarah Gubbins’ clearly personal new play about two lesbian couples facing “the kid thing” hit me right in the gut. The play’s gears get moving fast when Margot (Rebekah Ward-Hays) and Nate (Halena Kays) announce to their friends Darcy (Kelli Simpkins) and Leigh (Park Krausen) that they’re having a baby — a baby Margot is carrying. Leigh, the maternal one, rejoices, while Darcy, the “Rachel Maddow butch” one as Leigh describes her, recoils. After a few tense moments, Margot and Nate leave, which leaves Darcy and Leigh to discuss their thoughts on the subject. Darcy, a ball-busting PR executive, spins “the kid thing” as a pass to the poverty house — she’s convinced they’re not ready for it financially or mentally, while optimistic Leigh simply says, “It’s never the right time to have a baby.”

Sound familiar?

Leigh’s ready. The seed’s been planted and she feels that if she does all the leg work, Darcy will come on board. She even goes so far as to reconnect with a former undergrad friend (Steve O’Connell) to harvest his “extremely high count” sperm. However, Darcy isn’t having it. Her incessant retaliation eats away at her and her relationship with her wife and friends — and, in the play’s absolutely wrenching final moments, you finally understand the source of her extreme disgust.

The only misstep in this wonderfully conceived and beautifully acted play is a seemingly random infidelity suplot between two of the lesbian friends that murks up Gubbins’ otherwise powerfully straightforward script. Sure, it adds a layer of tension, but, to me, it gets in the way of the play’s central “kid thing” message.

Finally, I don’t want to give the impression this play only appeals to gays — Gubbins’ highly accessible script effectively tackles some deep universal emotions — fear, self-loathing, identity issues, trust, acceptance, denial, sacrifice. I guess what I’m saying is you breeders (kidding!) will get a lot out of it. I know my two straight friends did, as evidenced by their passionate post show conversation.

“The Kid Thing” plays through October 16 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. Running time: 2 hours, with one 15 minute intermission. More info here >

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