Playhouse Nashville's Ultrasound showcases a promising playwright, even if it strains credibility 

Womb With a View

Womb With a View

Since its inception last year, Playhouse Nashville has demonstrated a commitment to new works, and that mission continues with the world premiere of Garret Schneider's Ultrasound, an 85-minute one-act that probes issues of contemporary parenthood, personal responsibility and committed love while also straddling the structural line between fantasy and realism.

Schneider attended Ohio University's MFA playwriting program and participated in the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. Last year, he became involved with Playhouse Nashville through its 10-minute play series, and he currently serves as one of the company's four co-curators.

The setting for Schneider's play is Maine. At curtain's rise, a couple, Maddy (Rebekah Durham) and Jolene (Cori Anne Laemmel), are bickering over Jolene's apparently inappropriate behavior with Maddy's boss at a dinner. This fairly minor squabble gets overshadowed by Maddy's announcement that she is pregnant, which Jolene immediately disavows since the couple's previous attempts to have a child via artificial insemination have all failed. (The procedure is what medical researcher Jolene refers to pointedly as the "MIT squirt.")

But surprise! Now it's the real deal, and control-freak Jolene is threatened by all the unknown factors that will now impinge on her heretofore clinically planned life. While a difficult pregnancy looms, Maddy is ecstatic, and is eager to share the parental experience with her neurotic but brilliant significant other.

Then out of nowhere appears Angela, the child who will be but is not yet born. Laura Crockarell plays Angela as a truculent, mouthy "alternative" teen, seemingly headed for full-blown emo status. 

This breach of realism is as sure as the arrival of Clarence Oddbody in It's a Wonderful Life, with arguably as much significance, since only Jolene can see and hear her futuristic daughter, who represents that timeworn maxim, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

All-knowing adolescent fetus Angela is a fanciful if slightly irritating character, and she serves to test Jolene's control-at-all-costs mentality while also helping to set up the audience for other unplanned plot occurrences. (No spoilers here.)

Director Christopher Bosen has assembled a strong trio of experienced and respected performers, and all three passionately work Schneider's dialogue, which generally crackles with zeal and intelligence. Durham gains the most emotional traction, especially in those moments where she is espousing nurturance and — dare we say? — the concerns of old-fashioned motherhood.

Ghosts and magic are common enough conceits in scriptwriting, from the ancient classics up to the present day. But Schneider's brand of virtual drama strains credibility, even if it provides a means to keep us intrigued. Still, the play exposes a thoughtful writing talent with a knack for dialogue, and that's always cause for celebration.

 Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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