Discussing parenthood through a comedic play, Maybe, Probably sees a couple deciphering the path to having a baby. Thinking ahead to what this may bring, they struggle to predict how their lives will turn out.
Directing the production at the Old Red Lion Theatre this month, Lydia Parker has told us a bit more about the show, her input with personal knowledge, and how it is relatable to all.
What can audiences expect from Maybe, Probably?
Maybe, Probably is a very funny American comedy about a couple approaching forty who suddenly decide to have a baby. The play follows them through nine months of hope, expectation and fear (and the annoyance when complete strangers rub your belly). It takes place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but anyone can relate to it as the themes are universal. It reminds me of the best American sitcoms that are heartfelt and have depth but also have snappy, witty dialogue like Mad About You or Gilmore Girls. Ultimately, it’s about love and relationships being put to the test when your life changes drastically.
What significance does exploring themes of parenthood have, and why were you drawn to discussing this through theatre?
I had never read a play about pregnancy before and what struck me was we rarely get to hear how expectant parents feel except in the sappiest of terms when actually it’s all more complicated and fraught. Men and women have the same fears as each other: will the baby be healthy? Who will stay at home if we can’t afford daycare? If you have to stay home, will this ruin your career prospects forever? Will we lose all our friends? Will I ever sleep again? For most parents, it’s a huge decision and undertaking. If you put it off until you’re almost forty, there’s a lot more worries and you’re also more settled into a way of life.
Theatre, and especially fringe theatre where everything is up close and personal, is a great medium to share this story. I would love to get an audience of expectant parents, parents who’ve already gone through it, and people who haven’t a clue what it’s all about. I love it when you hear a sigh of recognition in the audience, or a gasp of surprise. That live experience is what it’s all about.
I have to add, I am from New York City and both my daughters were born in Brooklyn. Although I had my children when I was in my early thirties, I knew quite a few people who waited until later. I can relate so much to this world and feel like I know these characters intimately! All of my cast are American, three of them are parents of young children, so this is close to home for everyone. We’re even working the rehearsal schedule around their nursery and school pick up times!
How does comedy work alongside the sensitive subject of fertility?
Fertility luckily isn’t an issue for our main characters, Kate and Guy, but is definitely an issue for their best friends Zoey and Hugh. I don’t think I’m giving away too much by revealing they had to go through rounds of IVF and a miscarriage before they had a child. It does make Kate and Guy’s ease in getting pregnant a thorny issue for Zoey. I would say although so much of the play is funny, it takes those subjects very seriously, as well as all the very real fears Kate and Guy go through being “geriatric” parents. It’s actually called that, if the woman is over thirty-five. In America, it’s recommended that most women over thirty five have an amniocentesis to test for chromosomal abnormalities; that test carries a risk of miscarriage. Gestational diabetes, stroke, pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure are all worries. Luckily, in this day and age we have a barrage of tests and constant monitoring, but for many people, it is not an easy ride. I would say the comedy comes more from the recognition of fears and our tendency to Google everything.
Which part of the script did you most enjoy directing, and why?
I enjoy all of it, as it’s so beautifully written by Eric Henry Sanders, a father himself. It is bringing up such interesting discussions among us parents about our own experiences with pregnancy and giving birth, and also managing your expectations versus reality. Everyone thinks they want a natural birth until the pain of labour sets in.
We’re also exploring the expectations placed on men as fathers, which is fascinating. Men are rarely encouraged to stay at home, yet Hugh, a former teacher, is more than happy to. Guy is digging in his heels and refusing, saying he needs to keep working as a maths teacher. Is it toxic masculinity, a man’s need to provide, or insecurity in his ability to actually take care of a tiny baby? I also love that Guy has his own superstitions and is betting on the horses with Hugh in order to try to gain some control over the odds. How many wins at the track does it take for his baby to be born healthy?
Eric [the writer] has said that for him, Maybe, Probably is a romantic comedy about a couple who get pregnant. For me, it’s also about the relationships you have with your friends, who you need almost as much as your partners.
Also, the cast are absolutely hilarious and totally truthful! I really enjoy directing comedy and having a good laugh in the rehearsal room.
If you knew what the future would bring, do you think of that as being scary, comforting, or something else?
Personally I feel that if there is certainty about the future, that takes away hope. My own life has taken so many unpredictable twists and turns that I’ve learned to just go with the flow and stop trying to control the future. Kate and Guy are trying so hard to bring certainty into their lives but can’t know everything. I like surprises; my husband and I didn’t want to know the gender of our babies and actually had three different girls names picked out for our second daughter and thought we’d decide when we saw her (or him). Kate and Guy want names sorted ahead of time and find out the gender. So many parents want to plan, plan, plan even throughout their childrens’ lives. The thing is, we give birth to other humans but we actually have no control over who they will be. You can only do your best, accept them and love them for exactly who they are.
How would you describe Maybe, Probably in 3 words?
Pregnancy love story
Thank you so much to Lydia for some fantastically insightful answers about the show. Best wishes for the run, and I can't wait to come and see the piece myself!
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Additional thanks to Matthew Parker for coordinating this interview.