There or Here
nytheatre.com review by Nancy Kim
September 11, 2008
In Hypothetical Theatre Company's production of There or Here, playwright Jennifer Maisel juggles contemporary situations with weighty topics that bring fullness to her domestic drama in a global setting. An interracial American couple decides to use a woman in India to serve as a surrogate mother to carry their child to term. As scenes weave back and forth between New York City and India—though not necessarily in chronological order—Maisel explores the different possibilities between the "there" or "here" that affect the characters and their relationships to each other.
As Robyn and Ajay eventually come to a decision that a baby would put their lives back on track after Robyn's illness, they place their hopes on a young woman found through a clinic in India. Despite Ajay's Indian ethnic heritage, to which he feels little connection, it is mostly for convenience and facility that they choose a woman in India to act as a surrogate for Robyn. For all its ethical complications, Maisel highlights the connections between this third party/third world surrogacy and the frequent outsourcing of other services to over "there," as well as the metaphorical outsourcing of our emotional needs. In fact, Robyn and Ajay begin to develop convenient relationships with a technical support representative and phone sex operator, respectively, to share thoughts and fulfill needs since they are mostly unable to communicate "here" with each other. While they continue to outsource their feelings and their doubts via other channels, an unexpected disappearance eventually forces them to focus on what is happening at home and with each other.
In director Amy Feinberg's capable hands, the production looks elegant and the cast is confident. Annie Meisels and Alok Tewari anchor the story as the believable couple, though Meisels must work hard to keep Robyn from verging on perpetual neurotic mode. In a playful subplot, Judy Rosenblatt and Shalin Agarwal are an entertaining romantic pair as Robyn's mother and the younger, IM-loving tech geek seducer (so entertaining, in fact, I'd personally want to see a play about these characters!). Playing several roles, Purva Bedi is thoroughly charming, especially as the ineffectual phone sex operator. Deepti Gupta contributes voiceovers in Hindi and English that frame each scene, adding thoughtful resonance to the play's themes.