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IN VITRO

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When you're pregnant, they say, the mixed and often wonderful feelings you have get pretty darn old after eight or nine months, but the payoff makes it all worth it. In Paula Christensen's new play about, among other things, a woman's efforts to have a child, there are many mixed and wonderful moments. It's just not enough to fill two and a half hours onstage, even with a sorta kinda new life created after it's all over.

The playwright co-directs with Jason Jack Beeber, and they've put together an ensemble that makes the most of Christensen's always interesting dialogue and involving characters. Kristin Proctor is sure-fired as Laura, one of those lovely, careful women who has done everything right and refuses to admit there might not be a reward. Her sister Gemma (a sexy and quirky Brooke Bloom) is the wild child who ends up in places and with people by crashing into them. While Laura is seemingly comfortable in her marriage to Ned—a charmer with a big-time Peter Pan complex, played to perfection by Steve Howard—Gemma finds solace in whomever wherever whenever (Jeff Bass is sweet as her latest non-relationship), then goes home to her precocious 7-year-old daughter, Libby (a simply swell Allisyn Ashley Arm). Also in the oh-so-seductive mix are Joel Spence as a doctor who's all about possibilities, and Nikki Trostad as a young girl who puts a face to the inevitable.

So In Vitro is filled with marvelous family stuff, sister stuff, dead-dad stuff, dysfunctional relationship stuff, misplaced sexuality stuff…and funny medical stuff and good stuff about women's bodies and the emotions attached. All of this is mostly delightful and even feels new up to a point, because Christensen has a very polished voice, and did we mention those fantastic actors? However, on a small stage with slow, indulgent pacing and one too many actorly writerly directorly moments, cute and clever starts to wear thin and becomes predictable rather than exciting.

"In Vitro," presented by MacGuffin Theatre Company at the Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Also Sat. 2 p.m. Sep. 24 & Oct. 8; Sun. 7 p.m. Oct. 2. Sep. 9-Oct. 8. $20. (866) 811-4111.

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