BABE IN ARMS Merino, center, holds a little one.

BABE IN ARMS Merino, center, holds a little one. Photograph: Richard Termine

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Part theater of ideas, part scientific soap opera, Taboos mines some thought-provoking territory in its quest to decipher the ethical, emotional, familial and legal ramifications of reproductive technology. But art and subtlety often sink below the surface of this bloated play by birth-control-pill inventor turned dramatist Carl Djerassi.

Sally (Julie Leedes), who longs for a child with her lesbian urologist partner, Harriet (Helen Merino), gets pregnant through in-vitro fertilization with the sperm of Harriet's brother, Max (Blake Delong). Exercising rather poor judgment, Sally decides the evening of the implantation is the perfect occasion to invite her conservative Christian brother, Cameron (John G. Preston), to San Francisco. Back home in Mississippi, he's having his own conception problems with wife Priscilla (Jenn Schulte), and soon Harriet, who wants to give birth too, is mixing her own eggs with Cam's sperm and passing down the unneeded embryos like last season's sweater to Cam and Priscilla. Got all that? It's not just a case of who's your daddy, but also who's your uncle, mother and even brother? Luckily for everyone, Max offers legal expertise as well as comic relief.

Fortunately, Djerassi is blessed with a director and a cast fully committed to breathing life into their characters and situations. Avoiding the southern-hick stereotype, Preston brings empathy to a man struggling to embrace the brave, new world before him. What the playwright really needs, however, is a plastic surgeon to nip and tuck preachy dialogue and scenes that dribble on incessantly.Diane Snyder

SoHo Playhouse. By Carl Djerassi. Dir. Melissa Maxwell. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 5mins. One intermission.