Pregnancy Pact, book and lyrics by Gordon Leary, music by Julia Meinwald. Directed by Joe Calarco.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Don’t look now — who I am, not what you see."
Kinnunen, Seibert, Steingold and Alabado; photo: Tim Fort
Four high school buddies discover that one of their number is pregnant. She is a junior. She wants to have the child, not acknowledge the father, and later return to school to finish her last year. Her friends form a pact, a pregnancy pact: they will all get pregnant and have their babies at around the same time, reinforcing each other’s decisions and standing together against the world. Or, as the man sitting behind me on opening night in Row F at the Weston Playhouse, where this new musical is having its world premiere production, said in anger at the intermission, "So, a stupid bunch of girls decide to get pregnant together, to spread their legs and just do it without regard to consequences. For this I should spend money and sit in a theater?"
This is clearly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to a musical show. Musically, and psychologically, it holds a place between "Grease," or "Hair" (with a bit of "Henry, Sweet Henry" thrown in ) and "Next to Normal." You don’t come out of the theater humming the score (although you might be humming tunes from "Grease"). You do come out wondering if there is some way that the creators of the show could go back and form a book that leads to an ending, even if it isn’t an ending with a moral. Something, perhaps, like "support your friends by discouraging such behavior."
This is apparently loosely based on an incident in 2008 in Gloucester, MA at their high school where seventeen girls got pregnant at about the same time. They supposedly made a pact not to leave one another on their own with the burden of childbirth and child-rearing.
As might be expected in a play things go wrong. Two other girls, despised by the quartet, insist on becoming part of the pact. Secrets are leaked. Boyfriends get miffed when they discover that either they are or are not future dads and/or that their impregnated girlfriends don’t want them involved. Arguments between and among the girls themselves deprive the pact of any legitimacy based on undying friendships. The show currently ends with an homage to loneliness and betrayal, to friendship and motherhood and to fear of the uncertainties of life, "Save Me," a song that would better come mid-act with a solution to all, or at least most, problems still to come before the final applause. In other words this show, like so many others this season at various theaters around this region, has no ending, it just stops. Life, however, never stops and we get up from our seatws knowing that there is so much more to come for these girls and we have been left to use our imaginations to discover those endings.
Like the man behind me, I have no intention of dwelling on the problems contained in this show. He and his wife, who disagreed with him on the major points, left the theater unhappy and dissatisfied. Like a good old-fashioned out-of-town tryout this show may well continue on its path to immortality, but like the same old-fashioned musical it is out on the road and there is work to be done.
The show needs to find a way to make us really care about some of the girls at least. It needs to go beyond honesty and delve into the minds of these young woman. It needs to show us the underlying problems that bring these characters to this point. There are currently no adults in the show, just the seven kids - no parents, no teachers, no guidance counselors, no doctors of any sort. There is rebellion, disgust, disdain, demoralization at the hands of older folks, and boredom and early sexual experimentation on the plate here but no evidence presented except in one odd monologue by Kaylee screaming at her mother on the other side of an unseen bedroom door.
An extraordinary company has placed this show on the Vermont stage. Margo Seibert and Caitlin Kinnunen are phenomenal as the first girl impregnated and her best friend who betrays her trust and forces an early birth on her best pal. As Maddie, Kinnunen is tortured into lying about her relationship with Cory, the boy she sleeps with every night. She sings the turgid songs with too much exposition in the lyrics. She looks unhappy most of the time and she does that extremely well. Seibert’s Brynn is a jollier, though anxiety-ridden, girl faced with the hardest decision of all, whether or not to accept a pregnancy pact of friends and once having done so, deciding how far she can go to goad them into compliance. Both girls sing and act with the competence of the more accomplished. They are fine in their roles.
As Kaylee, the one who can’t get pregnant, Katrina Rose Dideriksen is great at hostility and terrific in the role of supporter. She gets to sing the "Kaffritz" or "Rizzo" song, "Leave Me Behind" with great style, verve and emotional impact.
Jeanelle, who breaks the pact and starts the principal ruckus among her friends, is played by Dana Steingold. Her voice and her body belie her size and she delivers a strong performance with devastating impact. The other two girls, Jenn played by Lauren Marcus and Sansanee played by Krystina Alabado, do fine work as well.
The sole boy in the cast, playing three roles, is Jed Resnick. He, as Cory, and Kinnunen duet on a sweet song, "Secrets" and he gets a solo in "Let Me" when he discovers he is about to be a father. Resnick never has a bad or false moment on the stage but he is written just to be written out in this role. This feels like a mistake and not just for the actor but for the character.
On a wonderful set that needs too many a-vista changes done by the cast of actors, designed by Timothby R. Mackabee, the show is given a first-rate production by director Joe Calarco. Calarco has done a fine job in staging the piece, but there is so little development in the characters themselves that the fault must lie with the writing. This director may have already done the cutting he felt necessary, but perhaps it is time for all three creators to look at their handiwork and begin to assemble the pieces of a legtitimate bit of theater rather than a pop-rock expression of individual decision making that is both self-destructive and unnecessarily cruel to others.
The Weston Playhouse has taken a big risk with this show and they have delivered a stage-worthy piece of clap-trap that could, in time and with hard work, emerge as a first-rate theatrical venture worthy of repeated visits. They must be applauded for taking on the challenge and never short-changing it. They should never declare this show frozen during its brief run in Vermont. Everyone should take advantage of all the fine talent involved to forge forward into a new and better theatrical experience.
The women of Pregnancy Pact; photo: Tim Fort
Diderkikscon, Seibert, Kinnunen, and Steingold; photo: Tim Fort
Pregnancy Pact plays through September 8 at the Weston Playhouse at 703 Main Street, Weston, Vermont. For information and tickets call the box office at 802-824-5288 or go to their website www.westonplayhouse.org.