The Darling Family

By Linda Griffiths. Directed by Sean Devine. A Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Equity Co-op production. At Studio 16 until Sunday, March 26

The Darling Family rings the changes on the fears and uncertainties provoked by an unexpected pregnancy. Make that wrings the changes: it's an exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, exploration of a potentially life-changing scenario.

"We talk about it. We talk about it till we can't talk about it anymore," says the nameless woman in Linda Griffiths's 1991 play, and it's an apt summary. The action begins when she discovers she's pregnant, and consists almost entirely of discussions with her lover, whom she's only known for a couple of months. Both have reasons for not wanting a baby-he grew up without a father, and she seems to have been abused by hers-but neither is able to make a decision about the pregnancy.

Perhaps in an effort to make the characters more universal, Griffiths leaves them almost blank. Both are afraid to grow up. He's a bit of a cliché: a man with a great record collection, who quits his dead-end job to travel and work on his novel. Their relationship is also lightly sketched: we see sincere attempts to be sensitive and respectful, but nothing resembling real love. Sure, they barely know each other, but there's no hint of what brought these two together in the first place.

Although the tone here is mainly earnest, there are witty moments-especially in the tension between the characters' words and their thoughts, which we're privy to thanks to numerous asides. At one point, as they walk together, she marvels, "He took my hand like there were three of us crossing the street," while he immediately chastises himself: "Never take her hand like that again."

Alexa Dubreuil and Nathan Schwartz are both warmly natural as the troubled couple; their affability makes their struggle watchable. Director Sean Devine and choreographer Tanya Marquardt try to liven up the talky script by layering on a physical vocabulary that is sometimes enriching, but occasionally overstated to the point of being distracting. Like the script, the movement works best when it injects a sense of humour and lightness into the story.

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