There's so much theater in New York City. We know that. But we really want you to know how unique and special Wrong Number is, and how CURRENT to our fast-evolving and shifting times. Plus, the show is charming, funny, and deeply touching. Read more in this preview article and then come see the show!! One week only November 10th - 13th.
“Family” is a familiar but very charged word. It can mean different things to different people. Not only does family define the relationships that we hold most dear, but it also defines our own personal identity: who we are, ideals and traditions that we identify with, and, to some extent, where we expect to go in life. Traditional American society has always held up the “nuclear family” (father, mother and 2.5 children), as the ideal example of the family unit. However, the idea of what we define as “family” has become increasingly more complicated as society evolves and changes from generation to generation. And how does this ever evolving notion of family affect us in our personal lives and careers? Do we live our lives based on our predetermined biases of what we think a family should be and seek to achieve that or can we change to include and accept new types of family structures?
This is exactly the questions that teacher turned playwright, Nedra Pezold Roberts, decided to explore in her play Wrong Number. Roberts introduces us to 35 year old Cassie (Kat Murphy) and Mike (Costa Nicholas). Cassie and Mike are successful in their careers. Mike is in a committed relationship with his partner Dan (Greg Pragel) and Cassie is equally dedicated to her career as a freelance editor. Their lives seem fulfilled and complete until each of them feels the pull of family.
Mike would love to start his own family with Dan but they need a surrogate to have the child. Cassie, feeling her own biological clock ticking away would love to have a child but doesn’t know when or if this would happen. The two lifelong best friends come up with what seems like a sensible solution: Cassie volunteers to act as the surrogate for Mike and Dan and give up the baby when it’s born. The idea does not seem so sensible to Cassie’s traditional parents, Arnold (David Shakopi) and Dorothy (Anne-Denis Slattery). Dorothy loves the idea that she is going to be a “grandmother” without acknowledging or believing that Cassie is going to give up the baby and Arnold just doesn’t know what to make of his daughter’s decision or Mike wanting to raise a child in his “non-traditional” lifestyle.
The situation grows even more complicated when Dan gets cold feet, decides he does not want to be a father and leaves Mike. Cassie, meanwhile, gets word she is carrying twins and becomes ever more attached to the lives growing inside of her. Despite this turn in his relationship, Mike wants to keep their original arrangement and adopt the babies. Cassie, however, has another thought, and insists on being a presence in their lives. This contention places the old friends at odds as they question what they should do next. Should Cassie honor the arrangement? Or should she be their mother? Can Mike and Cassie forge a new type of family and should they?
During her 40 years of teaching and advising students, Roberts met many people like Cassie and Mike who were driven to succeed in their careers but struggled with family goals that were at times at odds with society and their own personal family ambitions. “I came to know more than a few young men and women who questioned their sexual identity. Their struggle, confusion, their pain and isolation would break your heart. Over the years, I've stayed in contact with many of them (all grown up now and successful in their careers) and I've listened to them talk about relationships and the longing to have children”, said Roberts.
“I've also listened to the many talented single women who hear their biological clocks ticking loudly and find their options narrowing for finding love and building a family. These are the ones who have made it far enough up the career ladder to look out into the distance and take stock of what that climb has cost them,” Roberts continued. “These young people are so human and honest, and so like everyone else in wanting the happiness life has to offer.
In her attempt to give a voice to those who have often felt voiceless, Roberts also explores how the inherent biases that society has when it comes to couples and families, especially from an older generation’s point of view. “In the opening scene, I hoped the audience would automatically assume that Mike and Cassie are a couple. The surprise ending of that scene is my invitation to the audience to re-think some of those comfortable assumptions in life that we often never challenge. Viewpoints that are so familiar and commonly held we don't notice their inherent cruelty… These are some of the thoughts I had, along with a sympathy for the older generation that feels cut adrift in quite another way. How do they connect with a culture that baffles them as it quickly changes?”
Through the exploration of a new family dynamic Roberts hopes that audiences can come away with a fuller appreciation of what it means to be human. We all have the same drives and aspirations for family and love even if we don’t always fit the mold of expectation. Wrong Number (Directed by Francesca Di Cesare) is running from at the Bridge Theatre, 244 W.54th (12th Floor) Street, New York, NY, November 10, 11, 12 @8pm, November 13 @2pm with a talkback with Nedra Pezold Roberts after the show on November 13. All tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.
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