“Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee / Calls back the lovely April of her prime.” ~ W. Shakespeare.

It’s not easy to lug a stroller down the subway station stairs, and it is definitely difficult to hold a screaming baby while pressed cheek to jowl with eight million fellow urbanites. Raising a kid in the city has probably never been carefree, but in The Big Apple it’s not only a headache, it’s also expensive and socially limiting. Susan Bernfield’s play Barking Girl is a sweetly lyrical meditation on one woman’s experience of motherhood that takes a philosophical view of the many privations and rewards of procreation in New York.

Rae (Adina Taubman) and Gil (Max Arnaud) have a pretty idyllic life: The scene opens in the south of France where they are wrapping up a vacation. He is on his way to Paris for a meeting, and she will soon be flying back to their home on the Upper West Side. Theirs is a marriage: an emotionally fulfilling, if slightly boring, quotidian installment on the biological imperative payment plan. Before parting they discuss the possibility of having a child. He is insouciantly optimistic; she is apprehensive. On the flight home she sits next to Sexy Guy (Tom O’Keefe) who feeds her anxiety by reminding her that having a child means irrevocably giving up her freedom. Well, not exactly. It means giving up one’s competitive edge in the post-family, capital acquisitive, uber-materialistic First World. You will be the center of attention no longer. You will not be able to divorce your spouse because they bore you; you will not be able to regale your three besties with the ongoing saga of your dating life; you will not be able to indefinitely postpone the creeping, dreadful realization that the world is for the young.

But despite Sexy Guy’s best efforts at seduction, Rae feels she has been inoculated by her pregnancy against the fevered hopes of untutored youth. Like any good drama, Barking Girl finds the contradictions in someone’s way of being in the world and pushes them to the breaking point. Rae is a post-feminist child of privilege: She doesn’t need a man to make her socially respectable, and she isn’t expected to procreate. The murmuring surge of urban capitalist, identity driven, #firstworldproblems whispers in her ear that female identity is lost when it assumes traditional female roles. Rae grapples with the paradox at the heart of Second-wave feminism: freedom from an identity can mean no identity at all, or as Janis Joplin said, “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” After she loses her husband in an accident Rae comes to realize that her adulterous angst was a mistaken attempt to escape mortality. And in the end she realizes that in our children we live again.

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