If you were looking for a quirky health-care professional, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Nurse Doris. A self-described atheist, anarchist Trotskyite, this quip-slinging figure in pale pink scrubs often seems to forget about the patients in the maternity ward where she works: She’s more interested in hanging out in the waiting room, regaling listeners with the details of her unusual love life. Subject to overpowering cravings (because, she assures everyone, she is at least a week pregnant), she at one point insists on devouring nearly every comestible in a bemused visitor’s capacious purse.
As painted in broad, confident strokes by Marcela Ferlito, Nurse Doris is the most entertaining aspect of Teatro de la Luna’s latest offering, “La Vida Que Me Das . . . y no me alcanza” (“Such a Life You’ve Given Me ... and it’s not enough”). Argentine playwright Susana Torres Molina’s comedy contains other moments of pleasant, low-key wackiness — a scene in which a chic career woman named Sole (Carolina Calderón) gives impromptu belly-dancing lessons, for instance. But Doris’s eccentricities and high spirits generate most of the energy in director Mario Marcel’s good-humored if somewhat stiff-looking production, which is billed as a U.S. premiere. (The play is performed in Spanish with English surtitles.)
Its jokey atmosphere and occasional gently risqué conversation notwithstanding, “La Vida” has a serious side: As its three female characters share their obsessions, reminiscences and modern-life survival strategies, the play reflects on the complicated, ambivalent feelings many women have about sex and, especially, parenthood. Ambivalence is certainly unavoidable for Sole, who hastens to the maternity ward when an unmarried friend goes into labor with quintuplets. When Marina (Jhakye García), another friend of the expectant mother’s, also arrives, the tension rises.
Marina is a conservative, prudish single person who hankers to be a mother. Sole is a busy, ambitious professional who relies on her husband to cope with the children and who secretly thinks family life is overrated. (“In your place, I would have become the reincarnation of King Herod,” she says to Nurse Doris, a propos of all the babies in the maternity ward.) As for Nurse Doris — she’s Nurse Doris, happy to scandalize everyone. Since the quintuplets dawdle en route to birth, the three women have time to shatter each other’s assumptions about love, success and happiness.
Calderón gracefully layers Sole with vulnerability and narcissism, and García’s Marina exudes suitably prim embarrassment. (Costume and prop team Rosita Becker, Silvana Fierro and Nucky Walder contribute the character-befitting garb and, important, handbags.) Director Marcel designed the appropriate waiting room set, with its institutional chairs and carpeting, paintings of storks and strategically positioned box of tissues.
Don’t worry: Those tissues aren’t put to too much use in this comedy, whose mood is nearly as jaunty and wisecracking as Nurse Doris’s.
Wren is a freelance writer.
by Susana Torres Molina. Direction, set and sound design by Mario Marcel; lighting, Brian S. Allard; assistant directors, Silvana Fierro and Marisol Flamenco. About 80 minutes. In Spanish with English surtitles (translation by David Bradley). Tickets: $15- $35. Through March 9 at Gunston Arts Center, Theater Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, Va. Call 703-548-3092 or visit www.teatrodelaluna.org