Procreation Preoccupation

In ‘Lungs,’ a couple can’t decide whether they should reproduce

October 12, 2011

W (Brooke Bloom) and M (Ryan King) suffer from youth, health and indecision.

You’re in your late 20s, in a committed relationship, healthy, educated, thoughtful and employed — time to start having babies, right? Or to start agonizing about whether the world really needs more people.

“Our generation is the first that’s had to consider the contradiction of not having children being seen as selfish, and also having children being seen as selfish,” says 31-year-old playwright Duncan Macmillan. “Lungs,” which runs through Oct. 23 at Studio Theatre, tackles this conflict of expectations.

The protagonists of “Lungs,” identified only as W (Brooke Bloom) and M (Ryan King), are in their late 20s, in a committed relationship, healthy, educated, thoughtful and somewhat employed. As they brood over whether to have a baby, the usual issues — money, inconvenience, commitment — fall away as even heavier questions arise. Like the carbon footprint of a baby, and its potentially thousands of descendants.

W and M wrangle their way through hormones and unprovoked nastiness and disappointment in each other and themselves on a bare stage with no props. Macmillan describes the setup as something “between a stand-up gig, a boxing match and a piece of dance.”

“Partly it’s a smoke screen for their anxieties and their doubts over whether or not they’ll be good parents, and it’s easier to overthink and delay and find reasons not to,” Macmillan says.

“Being thoughtful does not necessarily make you happier,” says Macmillan, who wrote “Lungs” when he was 30. He’s been engaged for three years and still can’t figure out whether having children is a responsible choice. “Knowing how the world works a little more only makes the world seem more complicated, more unmeasurable,” he laments.

One thing that definitely won’t give you the answer: writing a play about how there is no answer.

“It wasn’t therapy,” Macmillan says of the writing process. “It wasn’t successful therapy, anyway.”

Experimentation

“Lungs” is the first production in Studio Theatre’s Lab Series, which has a mission to bring new plays to D.C. and keep costs down — all tickets for “Lungs” are only $20. Expect the series to focus on plays that can be produced cheaply, like “Lungs,” which has only two actors and no props or set to speak of.

Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW; through Oct. 23, $20; 202-332-3300. (Dupont Circle)
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