Hatched cracks open the implications of egg donation at the Toronto Free Gallery
I’ve neither given away nor sold my eggs. But there are many women who have, and their story is at the core of Hatched.
But just as compelling is the story of the children hatched from donor eggs. Like Nicholas (Jakob Ehman), whose mom couldn’t get pregnant and yadayada – tada!
As if life weren’t complicated enough, try on this version of nature vs. nurture. Are you my mother? Are you?
Based loosely on playwright Claire Burns’ own experience as an egg donor some eight years ago, Hatched explores the many possible outcomes of this relatively new 21st century form of fertility management.
Donating your eggs (for money or not) is one thing, but what about the children that come of that? Is that your son passing you on the street? How’s your daughter doing wherever she happens to be?
To create the play, Burns interviewed egg donors, donor children and recipient couples. The result is a one-hour kaleidoscope of the many possibilities – including identity crisis, pharmacological overuse and the further confusion that can arise from discovering the truth.
Ehman does a fantastic job of playing the angst-ridden teen who goes from divorce to problems in school to discovering he never even was who he didn’t like being.
His supposed mom Linda (Astrid Van Wieren) plays up the part of a woman reeling from a recent divorce and dealing with a child she can’t manage. That said, one of the most touching moments was after the denouement when Linda cuddles her son, counting backwards from 10. “Mommy’s here,” she says, in a way that every mom who has managed the worst knows dearly.
Holding the whole performance together is Fiona (Lisa Norton) who plays the role of high-school guidance counselor cum almost-lover, but ultimately donor mom. It’s only on leaving the theatre that you start to put together the story and finally understand why she pushed limits and said things that would cost you your job.
Sipping wine in the front gallery after the performance, Burns says, “Can you imagine what happens when you get an egg from India and a sperm from Canada?”
It’s a tangled egg journey and Burns’ play is just the beginning of an exploration of the implications.
Hatched is playing in the back room of a west-end gallery, symbolic of the underground fertility network that’s the bigger story of egg donation. In Canada egg donation is legal, but since 2004 it’s not legal to sell. The story is different in the US where Asian women can fetch up to $10,000 a pop.
As we exit the gallery and head east, there’s a young girl carting bags home from a laundromat. It’s late, dark and she should be in bed. You can only wonder how much more complicated life’s getting.
Photo: Ashley Smallwood