Playwright: Felicia Basanavicius. At: Reutan Collective at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St. Tickets: 800-650-6449 or www.pubhousetheatre.com; $10. Runs through: April 28
Jensen and Wit are the title lesbians trying to conceive in playwright Felicia Basanavicius' world-premiere comic drama for Reutan Collective. So you might wonder why Basanavicius chose to cede so much of the play's 70-minute running time away from Jensen and Wit to a stoner dude called "No-Name."
The sketchy presence of this chubby and bearded heterosexual guy is emblematic of Jensen and Wit's shoddy structure and preachy dramatic revelations. As both writer and director of Jensen and Wit, Basanavicius probably took on too much since the messy end result feels like an unfocused rough draft.
The play starts out promisingly enough, thanks to the fun onstage banter and enjoyable relationship dynamics of actresses Emilie Modaff as Jensen and Sarah Nutt as Wit ( short for Whitney ). After a little debate, the couple decide the time is right for them to try for a baby in their small town of Bourbon, Missouri.
But everything goes off the rails in the next scene with the appearance of No-Name ( an engaging-enough Jimmy Wilson ). He directly addresses the audience sort of like a narrator, though his dialogue mainly consists of weird personal rules for partying.
No-Name's one tangential connection to the couple is through his uptight lawyer roommate, Dickus ( Matt Tassell ). Dickus conspires with Wit's manipulative mother, Barbara Walker ( Rainee Dunham ), once she finds out that a potential grandchild is on the horizon.
Exactly why No Name is largely omniscient in reacting to Jensen and Wit's relationship issues is never fully explained. Basanavicius also does a poor job of working in the play's setting and time of June 2015 early into the dialoguehence the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality seems to come out of nowhere near the play's end.
The ongoing battles between Jensen and Wit and their religious parents about their troubled past ( which includes bribery and conversion therapy ) are also not satisfactorily fleshed out. And considering how Bethany Elfrink plays Wit's opinionated and pregnant sister Heather with so much comic and profane gusto, you question why this entertaining actress isn't highlighted more throughout the production.
When compared to Sarah Gubbins' Jeff Award-winning 2011 lesbian pregnancy drama The Kid Thing, Jensen and Wit is clearly the weaker of the two. You can tell that Basanavicius' heart was in the right place in her desire to dramatize the struggles of a small-town lesbian couple aiming to start up a family. But with so much of the drama dominated by this spacy and beer-chugging No-Name character, what's the point of calling the play Jensen and Wit in the first place?