The Hypotheticals is a play about a gay man (Jeffrey Jay Fowler) and his straight and single female best friend (Sarah Reuben), both in their thirties and living in Perth, who find themselves confronting the loaded question of whether, in the face of struggling relationships and the relentless march of time, they may like to consider having a child together.
What starts as a park-side provocation quickly becomes an all-consuming preoccupation. Both must battle through doubts and imponderables to arrive at a conclusion – will they commit to conceiving and co-parenting a child? To do this, they hypothesise about everything that could potentially happen. The highest highs and the lowest lows – nothing is off-limits in this interrogation of parenthood.
The cornerstone of the play is its powerful script, which feels strongly like the culmination of an organic process of being chiselled through lived experience, an accretion of reflections over time about the always-possible but not-yet-realistic prospect of parenthood embedded within a narrative arch charting the vicissitudes of life, friendship, relationships and growing older.
The script is the heart of this play. It just brims with humour. The dialogue is variously funny, witty, sharp, snappy and poignant, roaming seamlessly from the quotidian to the sublime in mere moments. Profound truths are revealed somewhere in the transition from the laughably awkward chatter surrounding the excruciating act of preparing for DIY artificial insemination to the staggeringly painful admissions that bookend that act. Fowler and Reuben are the kind of writer-performers who can travel over vast emotional terrain with light, nimble steps and quick humour.
The quality of the direction shines through in the effortless comic timing and seamlessness of the performances. The affable characters scripted by Fowler and Reuben really come to life with the way in which their complementarity has been moulded for the stage.
The set design, lighting and sound have been crafted by dexterous professionals who know how to create and render space and ambience for a two-hander. The sharp contours of the stage set, and the evocative lighting and sound accentuate the performers’ choreography, which brilliantly carries the story forward and helps traverse a conceptual landscape that extends from Perth to Darwin.
This play has been conceived, created and performed by a talented local team and it deserves to be watched widely. Most importantly, it takes the conversation about parenthood, or rather choices about parenthood, in a brave new direction.
In fact, for simply taking what sometimes feels like the hidden existential angst of even considering parenthood when you’re a gay man or a single woman in your thirties, for taking the emotional complexity and delicateness of that subject and exploding it with comic chutzpah, this is an accomplished work.
The genius of the play lies in its use of hypotheticals to talk about parenthood – from every disaster to every sublime moment hypothesised by the characters, we glimpse visions of what we might ourselves consider if we were in their position. The play’s brilliant ending is one that stays true to this leitmotif, leaving us longing to know more and to ask that clichéd but still daunting existential question – to be or not to be?
The Hypotheticals by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Sarah Reuben
State Theatre Centre of WA
Director: Adam Mitchell
Choreographer: Laura Boynes
Sound Designer: Louis Frere-Harvey
Set and Costume Designer: Matthew McVeigh
LX designer: Peter Young
Stage manager: Izzy Taylor
Producer: Libby Klysz
Cast: Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Sarah Reuben
The Hypotheticals will be performed until 5 August 2023.