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Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play)

A delightful exploration of the adventures of two couples as they explore the trials, tribulations, and craziness of getting in a family way.

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Brianna Cala, Sophia Grasso and Javere Green in a scene from TJ Young’s “Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play)” at the Chain Theatre (Photo credit: Mikhail Lipyanskiy)

Scotty Bennett, Critic

There was a time when locating a necessary thing for your life was difficult and sometimes arduous. Even in the days of a special telephone book listing many different types of businesses and services, searching for a special item or service was not straightforward. Now, with the internet, information on nearly everything one can imagine is just a computer click away, but that doesn’t mean getting the desired thing is easy.

Sperm Donor Wanted (or The Unnamed Baby Play), written by TJ Young, is a delightful exploration of the adventures of two couples as they explore the trials, tribulations, and craziness of getting in a family way when the mothers-to-be are a lesbian couple, and the sperm donors are a gay male couple. It is a well-turned play worth seeing.

Haley Rice directs a superb ensemble of four actors in a production that relies on the performers’ skills to bring the story to life on a bare-bones stage with limited props. It initially has the feel of a well-executed stage reading but rapidly moves into a well-paced storytelling play that effortlessly makes a connection with the audience.

David J. Baldwin and Brianna Cala in a scene from TJ Young’s “Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play)” at the Chain Theatre (Photo credit: Mikhail Lipyanskiy)

The story begins with the actors each standing in a pool of light and directly addressing the audience. Lisa, beautifully played by Brianna Cala, is one half of a lesbian couple. The other half is Bex, solidly embodied by Sophia Grasso. The other couple is David J. Baldwin as Charles and Javere Green as his partner Aaron. Baldwin and Green bring their characters to life as a gay couple.

They tell the audience that the story that will be presented is an attempt by the couples to make sense of their relationship regarding the sperm donation process and how the whole adventure turned out. They want the audience to be a witness in helping the characters make sense of what they experienced. It is an interesting technique when the whole cast breaks the fourth wall and invites the audience to participate in the story as it unfolds.

Lisa (Cala) is married to Bex (Grasso), and they want to have a child together. Lisa has a child from her previous marriage to a man, so the biology was pretty straightforward, but now, it’s not so easy. They spent thousands of dollars with in vitro fertilization through a variety of clinics using anonymous sperm from donors without success. They decided to try a different approach by appealing directly to possible donors. They fashioned an ad with specific conditions in the hope of finding a good match.

Javere Green and David J. Baldwin in a scene from TJ Young’s “Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play)” at the Chain Theatre (Photo credit: Mikhail Lipyanskiy)

In a funny recounting of what happened when they placed an ad on Craig’s List, they finally found a couple they thought would work. Charles and Aaron are a biracial gay couple. Charles is white, and Aaron is black, a factor in the final arrangement for the donations. This racial issue is handled effectively, honestly, and with sensitivity in the story. It is one of the issues that each couple faces while trying to get pregnant. As the weeks turned to months, their relationship became more entwined and complicated. Through this process, the details of the characters’ lives are revealed, at times through musings, as if one is talking with him or herself, and at times through addressing the audience with the character’s emotional struggle or with each other in discussions about hopes and fears concerning parenthood. Surprising things are revealed in these conversations. Their journeys are ultimately worth the effort.

All the performances are solid. My only issue was that Green as Aaron projected as if he were in a much larger space. He was always in character, but his voice was too loud in certain scenes. His expression is better balanced in the more introspective moments in the second act, so it is not an issue.

This production is staged in a small venue with no sets and only limited props, but the setting is effective in how Rice stages and directs the show. Joshua Rose’s lighting design is a critical element in the production in that it highlights the various characters’ actions and seamlessly moves and enhances them. The minimal props are used to good effect.

Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play) (through April 28, 2024)

Theatre 4the People

Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sperm-donor-wanted-or-the-unnamed-baby-play-tickets-8379811030372

Running time: two hours including an intermission

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About Scotty Bennett (76 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

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