Courtney Baron’s new play concerns an occupational hazard common to doctors and brainy New Yorkers: a clinical imperviousness to experience. When Carolyn (Lynn Collins) and Michael (Stephen Kunken) lose their prematurely born child, they respond badly. Michael tries fruitlessly to think his way out, while Carolyn pursues an affair with Anil (Amir Arison), the doctor who presided over the botched operation. MCC Theater’s production is impeccable; under Michael Greif’s direction, the three leads turn in nuanced and beautifully timed performances. But A Very Common Procedure ends up embodying the condition it’s trying to diagnose. Baron’s polished script offers the audience such a wealth of witty observations and carefully constructed metaphors that the desperate sadness of the situations onstage threatens to pass by unobserved. It’s not that her characters are evasive; Carolyn opens the play by confessing, “I masturbate to the thought of having sex with the doctor who killed my baby.” Rather, the very hyper-consciousness with which all three consider their wayward motivations and abject despair constitutes a kind of evasion via frankness. Everything about their actions is acknowledged except their meaning. Ultimately, the play resembles the model heart with which Carolyn tries to comprehend her baby’s death: perfectly accurate, but not, for all that, alive.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 20, 2007