She wrote about this unintentional similitude in a New York Times essay last year. But unlike Wasserstein’s play, Gionfriddo’s doesn’t end with an easy Madonna-and-child scene. “I was pregnant when I was writing the play, but without getting into too much detail, I had miscarriages, and it was not a smooth path,’’ she says. “I wasn’t one of those people who are pregnant and looking to the future joyfully. I felt it could all be taken away, and I was considering what life would be like if I didn’t have this baby.’’
Now, she is wrapped up in motherhood. In fact, she interrupts a phone interview to check a text from her baby sitter. She is taking a break from working in television, which she can do thanks to a nest egg she built from years of writing for “Law & Order.” She says she feels like Catherine’s mother in the play, who says, “I’d waited so long to have my baby, you know . . . I only had eyes for her.”
The career-family debate is ancient, and Gionfriddo doesn’t come up with pat answers. One of her characters says, “In a relationship between two people, you can’t both go first.” But during the interview, Gionfriddo asks, “Are there ways we could structure our lives better so both men and women can achieve a more satisfying work-life balance?”
The only male character in the play has a wife, children, and a career, yet would rather slide through life than fight to achieve rock-star success in academe. But Gionfriddo says that gay men, in particular, experience the same issue around work-life balance that women have experienced throughout history. “I know gay male couples who are trying to figure out if they can have a baby, given the high-octane careers they have,’’ she says.
That “dim, nagging awareness” that Gionfriddo felt in college — the suspicion that you can’t have it all — permeates the play, and it holds a mirror up to the audience. “The play is sort of a little bit of a Rorschach test,’’ DuBois says. “People project their own lives and sets of values on the play. Some people think certain relationships are tragic, and others think they are beautiful.”
DuBois, for his part, regards the play from the perspective of a man in his early 40s with a robust career; a partner of many years, Ben Bohen; and, so far, no children. “I feel the clock ticking,’’ DuBois says. “My partner and I are talking about it, but we still have a little time.”
Patti Hartigan can be reached at email@example.com.