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Friday, February 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Theater Review

"D.O.B.": Behind the scenes of the miracle of life

Special to The Seattle Times

In film, the birth experience is often reduced to just the final crescendo, when pushing gives way to success, shouts of "It's a boy!" and the lighting of cigars. This might perpetuate the false impression that giving birth is well, fast.

Local writer-performer John Kaufmann found out otherwise when he set out to record the birth of sister Gina's first child. For his newest stage production, "D.O.B. (Date of Birth)," Kaufmann recorded all 24 hours of Gina's labor on audio tape (Gina, a theater artist herself, was probably a better sport than most). He then transformed the audio to text, pared it down to two key hours, and hired a cast to re-create the birth onstage. His apparent inspiration for the project was a tape made by his own father at his own birth, which he intersperses throughout the action.

Now playing

"D.O.B. (Date of Birth)," by John Kaufmann. Produced by Open Circle Theater. Runs Thursdays-Saturdays through Feb. 25 at Open Circle Theater, 429 Boren Avenue N., Seattle; $12 (206-382-4250 or www.octheater.com).

For "D.O.B.," Kaufmann reverently chooses the "in-between" moments of labor for illumination — when moaning contractions give way to walking, waiting, reading "The House at Pooh Corner," and waiting some more. He also paints a picture of the push-and-pull that often occurs between the woman, her medical providers, and whoever else happens to be is present.

Gina's midwife tells her to rate her pain on a subjective scale, then argues over its accuracy. In between cheering on Gina's cervix, Linda the doula (a kind of hired birth coach) scares Gina with worst-case scenarios. Everyone has an opinion on everything, from epidurals to how to pass the time.

Kaufmann's cast portrays the midwives and nurses as nasal-voiced manipulators bent on speeding this "natural birth" along. As Gina, Tina LaPadula captures the emotional mix of excitement and dread that can accompany childbirth.

The good news is that even with an evil midwife, an obnoxious doula, and her brother recording nonstop, Gina gets the job done. The story ends with the obligatory "big bang" moment, not as messy on stage as in life, but just as sweet.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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