Theatre: Taboos

A new play about modern reproduction

In an age where human reproduction has a growing list of acronyms (ICSI, anyone?), it’s no wonder that parenting isn’t as simple as it once was. The latest play by Carl Djerassi, a scientist who was awarded the National Medal of Science for the first synthesis of “The Pill”, delves into the social issues surrounding alternative means of reproduction.

Taboos is a two-act play, set in the living rooms of two homes in the present day. The play explores the lives of five adults who, between them, provide the genetic material or womb for three children. Harriet and Sally are a lesbian couple who each get pregnant using the sperm of the other’s brother. Sally via the old-fashioned “turkey baster” method and Harriet via ICSI (pronounced ick-see), or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, which entails injection of a single sperm into an egg. The other side of the story involves Sally’s fundamentalist Christian brother Cameron and his wife Priscilla, who is unable to concieve a baby on her own, and opts to have a ICSI-fertilized egg implanted into her uterus.

Who are the parents of each child? What makes a family? Can twins be born to separate mothers? Can fertilized eggs be gifts? What responsibilities should be faced by the donors? How does a hopeful parent navigate the line between emotions and science? These are just some of the multi-layered questions addressed by Taboos. The good news is this play is thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted. Despite the complicated ideas, the story is easy to follow. Anyone who has ever mulled over the complications involved in technologically-aided conception will find themselves with plenty of food for thought. Although there is no judgement of or simple solution to these issues, they can be a little overwhelming when it comes to Bible quotations and fundamentalist prayers. Otherwise, Taboos is an earnest portrayal of circumstances, polarized between the lives of families based in San Francisco and Mississippi, that asks the audience to decide for themselves where they stand on the issues presented.

Taboos opens September 19th at the Soho Playhouse and will run for a six-week, limited engagement. This is the US premiere of the show, which has opened in London and Germany to rave reviews. For more information check out

What Do You Think?