Joshua Scrimshaw and Shanan Wexler, the writers and performers of From Here to Maternity, have a loyal fan base of improv and sketch comedy lovers. Scrimshaw is one-half, with his brother Joseph, of the The Scrimshaw Brothers, famous for their long-running raucous, bum-baring, liquor-swigging late-night cabaret acts. Wexler is one of the co-writers and performers of We Gotta Bingo and a veteran of the Brave New Workshop. The two seem like a good match, but when thrown on stage with a script and no director, these excellent performers lack the dynamism that won them their followings in the first place.
From Here to Maternity is about a thirty-something couple named Charlie and Meg. Meg wants to have a baby—signified by an alarm clock going off at the top of the show—and Charlie is a little hesitant. After explaining that she wants someone to take care of them when they’re “old and insane,” the couple proceeds to give it their best shot. Scrimshaw and Wexler make a sweet and believable “regular” couple in this fly-on-the-bedroom-wall atmosphere. Unfortunately, that’s also this show's downfall: most couples’ conversations—especially if they’re about making whoopee—are somewhat boring.
The script is very funny at times and full of zingy one-liners: “We’ve been married for six years and clocked in hours of pointless sex!” screams Meg. To which Charlie responds, “Kids are a major commitment . . . eighteen years to life.” Later, when they’re getting it on, Meg enhances the mood by saying, “Cervical mucus is like a uterus short bus.” It’s the stuff of improv and sketch comedy gold, but falls flat as memorized lines.
After the first scene, Scrimshaw and Wexler read the audience a revisionist Curious George story that becomes a parable for the way people are urged to raise their children (complete with illustrations). When George walks in on his adopted father having sex, he’s sent off to a Spanish immersion Montessori and eventually put on Ritalin for having ADD and a learning disability. The Man in the Yellow Hat tries to convince the doctor that there’s nothing wrong with the rascally George, but his cries go ignored. In another bit, a C-section–loving obstetrician and a nag champa–doused midwife literally duke it out onstage. There’s also a jazzy song called “Toilet Seat,” sung by the raspy-voiced Wexler, begging her husband to clean in exchange for some hot preggers action. She has an appealing voice. Scrimshaw and Wexler’s point is clear: medical professionals and drug companies are in bed together, corporations’ definitions of “family friendly” benefits are a joke, and the hardest part of parenthood might be getting through premeditated intercourse and gestation.
Not much else happens during the rest of this mildly amusing evening, and that’s simply not enough to fill ninety minutes. From Here to Maternity feels more like a bad Neil Simon play and not at all like what these kinetic, very funny, physically gifted performers are capable of. As the run progresses, I expect that Scrimshaw and Wexler will ease into the script and pick up the pace. As a Mother’s Day show, it’s a cute diversion. As a piece of theater, it needs a little help.
From Here to Maternity runs Saturdays and Sundays, through May 27, at 7 p.m. at Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Mpls. Tickets are $14 ($12 with a Fringe button). 612-825-8949.