(Not to be copiedwithout author’s permission)













An Immaculate Misconception





By Carl Djerassi



(A play in 2 acts with 2 alternative endings)






Department of Chemistry

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305-5080

Tel: 650-723-2783


e-mail: djerassi@stanford.edu                                               URL:http://www.djerassi.com

Program Note


Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction

“The technique of reproduction detachesthe reproduced object from the domain of tradition.”

(from Walter Benjamin, TheWork of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936)


The sub-title, “Sex in an Age ofMechanical Reproduction,” of my play is anallusion to Walter Benjamin’s famous essay of 1936 on “Art in an Ageof Mechanical Reproduction.” I chose itbecause I consider the impending separation of sex (in bed) and fertilization(under the microscope) one of the fundamental issues facing humanity during thecoming century. I picked Benjamin’s phrase for a second reason as well: in ourpreoccupation to conceive, we often forget the product of all the technologieswe utilize, namely the resulting child. Benjamin argues, “Thetechnique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain oftradition.” All the reader has to do is tosubstitute “child” for “reproducedobject” in order to land right in themiddle of the ethical thicket that reproductive technologists invariably face:they support heroic efforts by many couples to overcome certain biologicalhurdles that may very well harm rather than benefit the “reproduced object.”


Impregnation of a woman’s egg by afertile man in normal sexual intercourse requires tens of millions of sperm—asmany as 100 million in one ejaculate. Successful fertilization with one singlesperm is a total impossibility, considering that a man ejaculating even 1 - 3million sperm is functionally infertile. But in 1992, Gianpiero Palermo, HubertJoris, Paul Devroey, and André C. Van Steirteghem from the University ofBrussels published their sensational paper in Lancet, 340, 17 (1992), in which theyannounced the successful fertilization of a human egg with a singlesperm by direct injection under the microscope, followed by reinsertion of theegg into the woman’s uterus. ICSI—the accepted acronym for “intracytoplasmicsperm injection”—has now become the most powerful tool for the treatment ofmale infertility: well over 150,000 ICSI babies have already been born since1992.


This is the factual background ofICSI. But because “An Immaculate Misconception” is a play, all characters and especially the chronology, though notthe actual science*, arefictional—especially the reproductive biologist, Dr. Melanie Laidlaw, ICSI’sputative inventor. ICSI’s ethical problems, however, remain even after thecurtain has dropped.



Hamburg, January 2005


*The film of an ICSI procedure shown in Scene 5 isbased on an actual fertilization conducted by Dr. Roger A. Pedersen of theUniversity of California, San Francisco, while that in Scene 6 was performed byDr. Barry R. Behr of Stanford University.


Cast of Characters


Dr. MELANIE LAIDLAW: American reproductive biologist, late 30s,slender, athletic, with good-looking legs (relevant to scene 1).


VITALY SLAVSKY: Russiannuclear physicist, 45 - 50, muscular. Speaks excellent English, but preferably withdistinct Russian accent.


Dr. FELIX FRANKENTHALER:American clinician and infertility specialist (late 30s to early 50s).


IVAN: Young teenager (17 yearold in Prologue, 14-year old in Epilogue).


YURY: Fraternal twin of Ivan(14-year old in alternative Epilogue.


Theaction of the play takes place between 2000 and 2001.


PROLOGUE: Excerpt from Ovid’s Fasti.


Scene 1: May 2000, bedroom of European provincial hotel onthe occasion of a scientific Congress.


Scene 2: September 2000, Dr. Melanie Laidlaw’s laboratory atthe REPCON Institute for Reproductive Biology and Infertility Research on theEast Coast, USA.


Scene 3: November 2000, sperm bank dream scene in laboratory.


Scene 4: January 2001, same setting as Scene 1.


Scene 5: Sunday, February 11, 2001, same setting as scene 2.


Scene 6: Five minutes later, same setting as preceding scene.


Scene 7: September 2001, same setting as preceding scene.


Scene 8: A few minutes later, same setting as preceding scene.


Scene 9: One week later, same setting as preceding scene.


Scene 10: Early December 2001, same setting as preceding scene.


Scene 11: Fourteen years later (2015).


EPILOGUE: Excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.



Technical Details


The two videos—provided bythe author in VHS or DVD format and to be shown on the rear screen in Scenes 5and 6—depict an actual ICSI fertilization that needs to be coordinated with thedialog. (A sample sound dialog is included with one of the videos).


The e-mail interludes can beprojected in real time (preferable)or as intact texts following Scenes1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9.



Prologue. Spotlightfocuses on MELANIE, dressed as FLORA (Roman goddess of flowers and plants)whose face may be hidden by a mask or veil. FLORA’s words are based on Book5 (May) of Ovid’s Fasti (Roman Holidays) in the translation of Betty RoseNagle (Indiana University Press, 1995).


Ahidden flower from a magic shop, which is suddenly produced (e.g. out of acloth) in the penultimate stanza, would be a desirable prop.




As soon as I saw her, I said, “What brings you here,
Juno, daughter of Saturn?”

”No words,” she said, “are going to relieve my distress.
Why should I give up hope of motherhood without a spouse
and of chastely giving birth without touching a man?
I am going to try every drug the wide world over.”

While this speech was in progress, I wore a hesitant expression.
Three times I wanted to promise help, but my tongue stayed stuck.
Jupiter’s anger was a cause of great fear.

”Bring help, I pray; the source will remain concealed,” she said,
swearing by the power of Stygian water.

”Your object,” I said, “will be supplied by a flower sent me”.
My supplier said, “Touch a barren heifer with this
and she’ll be a mother.” I did and at once she was.

Right away I plucked the resisting flower with my thumb.
I touched Juno’s belly and she conceived at the touch.

She got her wish and a son was born.


Scene 1 (May 2002. Abroad, at a scientificconference): Bedroom in a provincial central European hotel. Visible are anunmade bed and, a chair bearing a woman’s discarded clothes. VITALY slouches ona second chair, wearing jeans and holding in his hand a shirt, which hegradually puts on and buttons as the conversation progresses. On the floor nearthe chair lie his socks and shoes, which he also gradually puts on. MELANIE,wrapped toga-fashion in a bed sheet, her naked legs showing just below herknees, sits by the side of the bed very close to VITALY’s chair. She stretchesout her legs, first one and then the other. VITALY observes.


VITALY: Great legs.


MELANIE (Lifts them briefly): I know. But thanks anyway.


VITALY: And so smooth. When I saw your legs for the firsttime in the sauna last night, I knew I’d have to touch them. (Beat). You were the only one wrapped in a towel.


MELANIE: We Yankees are more prudish than you Russians…especially in saunas.—


VITALY (Laughs): Ithink my prudish Melanie is over-generalizing.


MELANIE: Okay… but it’s also prudent to wear a towel in amixed sauna.


VITALY: Prudish and prudent are not the same… not in thedictionary and not in life.


MELANIE(Quick): True enough.


VITALY:So you are mostly prudent?


MELANIE:Yes… until tonight. (Turns serious).Vitaly, we know each other biblically, butI know so little about you.


VITALY:And I don’t know much more about you…other than that you’re a scientist…or youwouldn’t be here at this Congress. Tell me something personal.


MELANIE:You want to know what kind of science I do?


VITALY:No! It’s not your science that interests me…. You can’t make love to science.


MELANIE:I’m alone.


VITALY:That I know… or we wouldn’t be here. But are you alone in general?


MELANIE:I’m a widow.




MELANIE:And I have no children.


VITALY:How old are you?




VITALY (Pretends to study her carefully): Thirty-seven years… plus or minus seven months.


MELANIE (Laughs): Notfar off the mark. So you see? I don’t have too much time left… I mean time forhaving children. But what about you?


VITALY: Do I want children? At one time, yes. But notanymore.


MELANIE: Am I getting too personal?


VITALY: Maybe. (Pause).Ask something else.


MELANIE: How old are you?


VITALY (Mock whisper):That information is classified. (Louder) Now it’s my turn again.


MELANIE(Starts to rise, but then just moves further away at edge of bed): You mean something really personal?




MELANIE:Wait! First, do you believe me that I’ve never done this before?


VITALY: Define “this.”


MELANIE (Attempts offhandedness, but is slightly embarrassed):Having … ah…you know… carnal relations—


VITALY (Laughs): Youreally use that expression in America—


(He attempts to continue, but she leans over to puther hand over his mouth.)


MELANIE: —with a man I met only a few hours ago at a scientific congress… about whom I knowpractically nothing other than that he is a Russian nuclear hotshot, who—


VITALY (Interrupts laughingly): Just happened to invite you to a mixed sauna?


MELANIE: You think I make a habit of hopping into bed—


VITALY (Laughs): “Hoppinginto bed.” How American!


MELANIE: All right… so what would you say?


VITALY: Make love “with.” Or maybe, “to.”


MELANIE: And you prefer?




MELANIE: Is that what we did?


VITALY: It was “with”… “To” is different. Someone has totake the initiative.


MELANIE:I see…and, of course, my virile Russian wants to be the one—


VITALY (Plays with her hair or other gesture of affection): No, I don’t… at least, not this time. (Beat) I think I’d leave it up to my prudent Puritan—


MELANIE (Quick, but softly): Maybe I’ll try to make love to you... if there is a nexttime.


VITALY: There will be another time… there must be!


MELANIE: You’re that sure?


VITALY: Yes … because you’re no bed hopper.


MELANIE:You really believe that? Honestly?


VITALY:I believe you—honestly.


MELANIE:How come?


VITALY:I believe you, because it’s also true for me.


MELANIE:You’ve never slept with a woman you barely knew?


VITALY:Well… (Pause), not one I met onlytwenty-four hours ago.






MELANIE:Hmm what?


VITALY:Before, you started with “first…”




VITALY:First, that you’re not a bed-hopper. But what was “second”?




VITALY:Yes, “second.” When you spoke about carnal relations, you said, “first.” Sothere must be a second. Actually, I can guess what that was.


MELANIE: Tell me.


VITALY: You first. If I guessed wrong, I’d be embarrassed.


MELANIE: No. (Shakes her head vigorously). You first. Please.


VITALY: All right: You’ve never before made love to a marriedman.


MELANIE (Clearly relieved): Thanks.


VITALY: For what?


MELANIE: For guessing right.


VITALY: In that case, can I now ask my question?




VITALY (nuzzles her):Did you know I was married when you came up to me during the coffee break?


MELANIE: Not really. (Pause). But I suspected it.




MELANIE: Because most men at this conference seem to bemarried.


VITALY (Ironic): So Ilooked married?


MELANIE: You didn’t look single. (Beat). You looked… (searches for word)… not loose enough. You weren’t finger-branded, butI sensed some stamp of ownership.


VITALY: So why didn’t you ask?


MELANIE: Come now! I should have sidled up to you and said:“I’m Doctor Melanie Laidlaw. By the way, are you married?” (Both laugh). Besides (she turns serious), Ipreferred not to know.


VITALY: Because?


MELANIE: If I had known—at that stage—that you were married…I mean known unequivocally… I wouldn’t have… I couldn’t have…. (Long pause). Vitaly… you’re only—


VITALY: You don’t have to tell me.


MELANIE: Yes I do. I have to. The first man was in my lastyear in college. So you see I wasn’t a girl anymore. And the second was myhusband, who was also my professor.


VITALY (Leans forward. He is clearly intrigued, evenflattered): So what made you—


MELANIE: Hop into bed with you? Just because I have not madelove with anyone since my husband’s death does not mean that I have no sexualfeelings.


VITALY (Reaches over and succeeds in touching her.Softly): I know that.


MELANIE: This scientist knows enough chemistry to recognizea unique reaction—one I’ve never experienced before.


VITALY: You’re right about the spontaneous chemistry betweenus.


MELANIE: I said “unique.”


VITALY: And the difference?


MELANIE: Spontaneous ones have a tendency to quickly fizzleout… unless you add something.


VITALY: Such as?


MELANIE: A chemist would say, you need more reagents… ormaybe a catalyst.


VITALY: Whereupon a physicist would ask, what kind?


MELANIE: It’s too early to ask. Right now, the reaction isstill sizzling… not fizzling.


VITALY: Maybe because I wanted it to sizzle, I didn’t tellyou—right then and there in the sauna—that I was married. But now you knoweverything.


MELANIE: Everything? (Pause). For a scientist, that’s a meaningless word. You can never knoweverything. But you can learn when to stop looking for more.


(He starts to speak, but she takeshim by the hand)


Come…. not just “with” me…. come “to” me.




E-Mail Interlude (putin chat room format)


After Scene 1


Date: Sat, 30 May2002 08:51:59


Dear V,


            Sinceyou gave me your e-mail address, can I assume nobody reads your messages?




VITALY: I’mthe only one.


MELANIE: Mydear Vitaly,There’s so much to say, but I can’t put it down. I’ve never had ane-mail affair before. I don’t even know the etiquette.


VITALY: We’llestablish our own etiquette. I’ll start with “My lovely Melanie.” Now it’s yourturn.


MELANIE: Inthat case forget “My dear Vitaly.” I don’t want you to sound like my uncle.


VITALY: Howabout “Dearest Vitaly”?


MELANIE: Notspecial enough. How aboutAmi exquis, exquisamant!


VITALY: WhyFrench? Are you showing off?


MELANIE: Justa bit.


VITALY: Enoughabout e-mail etiquette. How about etiquette in bed?


MELANIE: Isit prudent to discuss that topic by e-mail?




MELANIE: Howabout: “Making love with a stranger is best, because there is no riddle andthere is no test.”


VITALY: Iteven rhymes.


MELANIE: Butthen while dreaming of an encore, I found you were no stranger anymore.


VITALY: Wow!Pure poetry!


MELANIE: I’mbecoming imprudent. Enough cyber-chatter.



Scene 2 (September 2000). Reproductive biologylaboratory of Dr. Melanie Laidlaw at the REPCON Infertility Research Center).Two stools and a lab table bearing typical biologist’s lab paraphernalia:optional examples are Petri dishes, pipette dispenser, rack of small tubes,perhaps a tabletop centrifuge. The only indispensable item is a largemicroscope with double eyepiece, which is a key item in next scenes. Overallappearance somewhat untidy. Felix Frankenthaler sits across from MelanieLaidlaw on lab stool. Both are sipping tea.


MELANIE (Banters while still looking through microscope):I hope you don’t consider this slumming…having tea with a lowly Ph.D. in a modest biology lab.

(Looks up, pushes stool awayfrom lab table, swings around to face FELIX for rest of conversation. Smilesaffectionately).


FELIX (Grins briefly):Slumming? In your lab? Never! (Takes sip). And you…”lowly”?


MELANIE (Grins back):All right… a first-class Ph.D.


FELIX (Takes a sip):Good tea… but where are the cookies?


MELANIE: I avoid sugar… and so should you. But thanks forcoming.


FELIX: You said it was hot stuff.




FELIX: So let’s hear it. (Sits down on other lab stool).


MELANIE: I‘m now at a stage of my research where I need aclinical hotshot as collaborator. Someone like the eminent Dr. FelixFrankenthaler.


FELIX (Bantering): Someonelike me? When you called, you said I was unique.


MELANIE: I didn’t think flattery would hurt.


FELIX: It never does.


MELANIE: But you are special: a top-notch infertilityclinician, while (assumes bantering tone)I’m just a lowly lab scientist.


FELIX (Similar bantering tone): My, my! I would never have expected such words from you! Suchself-denigration.


MELANIE (Still bantering):I’m just buttering you up. But (switches to matter of fact tone)… weeach bring something to the table that the other hasn’t got. (Pause). Your clinic is the best on the East Coast.


FELIX (Laughs pleased):At least we agree on something. Well? How far are you?


MELANIE: I finally managed to work it all out in hamsters.


FELIX: What’s next?


MELANIE (Triumphantly):Fertilize a human egg! Just think of it: by directly injecting a singlesperm!


FELIX: Intracytoplasmic… sperm… injection.


MELANIE: Exactly! (Spells it out slowly): I…C…S…I... (Then quickly, as one word): ICSI.And if it works, that acronym will be in the next edition of Webster’sDictionary!


FELIX: ICSI even sounds like a kid’s name… something that mypatients can identify with. (Pause). Ifthey knew what you were up to in here… they’d be breaking down your door.


            (Helooks around the lab, almost, but not quite, shaking his head)


Men with sperm counts so low they can never becomebiological fathers in the usual way. They won’t care if egg penetrationis performed under a microscope or in bed… just so it’s their own sperm.


MELANIE: Frankly, I was thinking of women… specifically thisone.


FELIX: I can understand that. You’ll be famous…world-famous… if a normal baby is born through ICSI. So far, of course, a big if!But now that you’ve succeeded with hamster eggs, why not try some more animalmodels?


MELANIE: Golden hamsters are the best animal models for thistype of work. Any respectable reproductive biologist will tell you that.


FELIX: What’s the rush?


MELANIE: You think the competition is sleeping?


FELIX: Still… failure is not going to get you famous.


MELANIE: Then forget about fame. What about ICSI andmotherhood?


FELIX: Is motherhood all that attractive a profession?Incidentally, a question I would deny I even raised—I, whose livelihood dependson getting women pregnant.


MELANIE: In my book, mother love is the only true emotionthat can’t be faked. (Pause). Well…maybe not all. True fear can’t be faked.


FELIX: What about father love?


MELANIE: The bonding is different. Besides, in most species,the father doesn’t even know the identity of his offspring.


FELIX: We aren’t “most” species. We practiceparenthood.


MELANIE: You asked if motherhood was such an attractiveprofession. I’m not so sure it has to be attractive. For some women,it‘s an obsession. You should know that.


FELIX: I don’t see what desire… or even obsession… formotherhood has to do with ICSI. If a single woman wants a child before it’s toolate, all she needs to do is to get inseminated with clinically proven, fertilesperm?


MELANIE (Mocking tone):In other words, look for a man like you whohas already fathered two children?


FELIX (Defensive).I’m not promoting my availability. But yes… men like me. With a fertile woman the success rate of standardartificial insemination with such sperm is very high. I’d say as high as inordinary intercourse. So why not go to a sperm bank?


MELANIE: I, for one, would be reluctant to go—


FELIX: You’re speaking on behalf of all women, some women,or simply yourself? In my experience, my patients—


MELANIE (Irritable):I’m not your patient and I’m not infertile. At least not yet.


FELIX: In that case you wouldn’t need ICSI. It’s men, who’dneed it… those men that we in the business call “reproductively impaired.”


MELANIE: Felix, you haven’t changed. You’re a first-classdoctor… (Pause)


FELIX (Bantering):But, but, but…? Let’s hear the but.


MELANIE: But… you look at everything throughtestosterone-tinted glasses.


FELIX (Still affectionate banter): And what’s my colleague’s estrogen-etchedview?


MELANIE: In the case of ICSI, that’s easy… especially sincemy glasses aren’t etched, but polished. (Grins). Maybe that’s why I see further than you. (Pause).

ICSI could become an answer to overcoming the biologicalclock. And if that works, it will affect many more women than there areinfertile men. (Grins). I’ll even becomefamous. We’ll become famous… that is if you come on board as my clinicalcollaborator.


FELIX: Not so fast, Dr. Laidlaw! Sure… I’d also be famous…with you… if that first ICSI fertilization is successful… and ifa normal baby is born. But what’s ICSI got to do with (slightly sarcastic) “a woman’s biological clock?”


MELANIE (Leans forward, excited): Felix, in your IVF practice, it’s not uncommon tofreeze embryos for months and years before implanting them into a woman.




MELANIE: So take frozen eggs.


FELIX (Dismissive): Iknow all about frozen eggs…they’re very different from embryos. There‘re evenproblems with just freezing them. And after thawing, artificial inseminationhardly ever works…. Do you want to hear the reasons for thosefailures?


MELANIE: Whocares? What I’m doing isn’t ordinary artificial insemination… I’m notexposing the egg to lots of sperm and then letting them struggle on their ownthrough the egg’s natural barrier. (Pause). Weinject right into the egg… (Pause). Now, if ICSI works in humans—


FELIX: A big if.


MELANIE (Getting irritable): Felix… you’re beginning to repeat yourself. It’s not “if”…it’s “when!” And when is now! Think of those women… rightnow, mostly professional ones… who postpone childbearing to their late thirtiesor even early forties. America and Europe are full of them.


FELIX: True. And so are the newspapers… with advice forsingle women.


MELANIE (Derisive tone):But what they don’t tell them is that by then, the quality of theireggs… their own eggs… is not what it was when these women were ten yearsyounger. (Becomes progressively more emphatic). So once the cryopreservation of eggs is perfected…and that’s just a matter of time… with ICSI, such women could draw on a bankaccount of their frozen young eggs and have a much better chance ofhaving a normal pregnancy later on in life. I’m not talking about surrogateeggs—


FELIX: Later inlife? Near… or even past the menopause?


MELANIE: Youconvert men in their fifties into successful donors—


FELIX: Then whynot women? Are you serious?


MELANIE: I’mnot sure that we reproductive scientists ought to open the door topostmenopausal pregnancies. But reducing the hazards of the biological clock byseveral years—say to the middle or even late forties? I see no reason why morewomen shouldn’t have that option.


FELIX: Well—if that works… you won’t justbecome famous… you’ll be notorious.


MELANIE: I’llrisk the notoriety. The fame, I’ll share with you.


FELIX (Mollified):Okay…. So we’ve got a new method of fertilization. But now, we need acontrolled experiment. We’ll take a fertile egg from a young woman—


MELANIE: Hold it, Felix! What do you mean… “We’lltake?” (Forcefully). Who is running thisshow?


FELIX (Retreats): Youare… of course.


MELANIE: Glad to hear that. Which is why I’ll select theegg. And “young”? Don’t you see, womencan soon be young even at my age.


FELIX: Youngish then. But at least use good fertile sperm.Let’s not complicate our work before we’re off the ground. Anyway… if thatdirect injection works, ICSI will become the method of choice for treating maleinfertility.


MELANIE: That’s all fine andgood. But think beyond that… to a wider vision of ICSI. I’m sure the day willcome—maybe in another thirty years or even earlier—when sex and fertilizationwill be separate. Sex will be for love or lust—


FELIX: And reproduction under the microscope? Sure…infertile persons do that all the time. (Pause). But fertile couples?


MELANIE: And why not?


FELIX: Reducing men to providers of a single sperm?


MELANIE (Laughs):What’s wrong with emphasizing quality over quantity? I’m not talking of testtube babies or genetic manipulation. And I’m certainly not promoting ovarianpromiscuity, trying a different man’s sperm with each egg.


FELIX (Chuckles):“Ovarian promiscuity!” That’s a new one. So what are you promoting?


MELANIE (Now serious and deliberate): Each embryo will be screened genetically beforethe best one is transferred back into the woman’s uterus. It’s that ability forpre-implantation genetic screening of the embryos… more than anything else…that will convince fertile couples to resort to in vitro fertilization. Why notimprove the odds over Nature’s roll of the dice before you’re pregnant?


FELIX: We doctors do this all the time with older womenthrough amniocentesis—


MELANIE: But only after they’ve been pregnant for severalmonths! The only option you then offer them is abortion! In my scenario, the 21stcentury will be called “The Century of Art.”


FELIX: Not science? Not technology?


MELANIE: The century of… A… R… T (Slow and deliberate): assisted… reproductive… technologies. Young menand women will open reproductive bank accounts full of frozen sperm and eggs.And when they want a baby, they’ll go to the bank to check out what they need.


FELIX: Once they have such a bank account… they might as wellget sterilized.


MELANIE: Exactly! They’ll just do earlier in life whatmillions of middle-aged persons are already doing all the time—for instancehalf the married couples in China… or a third of all Americans. If myprediction is on target, other forms of birth control will become superfluous.


FELIX (Ironic): Isee. And the pill will end up in a museum… (Pause)… of 20th century Art?


MELANIE: Of course it won’t happen overnight…. But A… R… Tis pushing us that way… and I’m not saying it’s all for the good. It will firsthappen among the most affluent people… and certainly not all over the world. Atthe outset, I suspect it will be right here… in the States… and especially inCalifornia.


FELIX (Shakes head):Melanie’s Brave New World.


MELANIE: Are you afraid to help me make that possible?


FELIX: No… not afraid. But before you know it, single womencould use ICSI to become single mothers… the Amazons of the 21stcentury. That worries me.


MELANIE: Forget about the Amazons! Just think of women who haven’tfound the right partner… or had been stuck with a lousy guy... or women whojust want a child before it’s too late… in other words, Felix… think of womenlike me.


(Upon Felix’s departure, shegoes to computer and starts typing E-mail message which appears on screen. Buteach typed sentence gets erased—showing in the end that the message was notsent off)





My dearVitaly. (Erases,starts over again). FabulousVitaly. (Hesitates,then erases again). Vitaly-- Back then you told me that one couldn’t make love to science. (Short pause). Let me confess… (Hesitates, then erases last threewords). I’m not so sure about that any more. (Pause)But first, I must… (Eraseseverything as LIGHTS DIM)




Scene 3 (November2000, to be staged as MELANIE’s dream. Single MALE VOICE is heard from offstage or two men (VITALYand FELIX)—their faces masked or too dimly lit to be easily recognizable—speakeither in unison or in quick alternation).


MELANIE: This is no ordinary bank.


MALE VOICE: You’re no ordinary client, Dr. Laidlaw.


MELANIE: I want to check about withdrawals for researchpurposes.


MALE VOICE: You want to withdraw?


MELANIE: I’m just inquiring.


MALE VOICE: What size withdrawal?


MELANIE: I need one spermatozoon.


MALE VOICE: Sorry… our minimal withdrawal is 80 million.


MELANIE: You see I’m looking for a potential father.


MALE VOICE: Then a sperm bank is no place—


MELANIE: Sorry! I meant potential donor.


MALE VOICE: That we can provide.


MELANIE: I’d like to know about available choices.


MALE VOICE: Probably more than you can imagine.




MALE VOICE: Just try us.


MELANIE: How specific can I be?


MALE VOICE: Very. For instance…take hair: (Reads veryrapidly): balding, thin, average, thick…and is it curly, wavy or straight?


MELANIE: What about hair color?


MALE VOICE: No problem. Even the color of eyebrows. (Pause)… Let me continue: dimples, cleft chin, Roman nose….Is he right or left-handed?…. If there are freckles, are there few or many? (Pause,slowing down). Or take shoe size—


MELANIE (Interrupts surprised): Why would that be relevant?


MALE VOICE: Could be genetic… like height or body size. Iguess you’re starting to get the picture. Or suppose you want to know about theman’s skin? (Again speeds up): Veryfair, fair, medium, olive or dark? And if the man checks “olive” or “dark”,he’s got to check one of four boxes: light tan, dark tan, brown, or black.


MELANIE: Enough! What about ethnic background?


MALE VOICE: Our current files list 80 choices.


MELANIE: That’s too many for me.


MALE VOICE: You only need to pick one.


MELANIE: What about a Russian?


MALE VOICE (Surprised tone): Russian? Nobody has asked for one before. But let’s have a look. (Pause). What do you know? Donor number 2062: Russian… (useactual description of actor playing VITALY along following lines): 5 foot 11, 165 pounds… straight black hair… samecolor eye-brows… rather bushy like Brezhnev’s. (Stops) Oh, oh!


MELANIE (Concerned):Anything wrong?


MALE VOICE: It says here shoe size 13… rather large for aman of less than 6 feet.


MELANIE (Laughs, relieved): Never mind… I can live with that. Does it give his profession?


MALE VOICE: Of course. Nuclear physicist—


MELANIE (Laughs):Sounds promising.


MALE VOICE: There are… let’s see… 26 pages. Let me just giveyou the headings. (Starts speaking very rapidly): Math skills, mechanical skills, athletic skills, favorite sport,favorite car—


MELANIE (Amused): Andwhat car strikes my Russian’s fancy?


MALE VOICE: Ferrari.




MALE VOICE: Red, of course.


MELANIE: I think you’re making this up.


MALE VOICE (Ignoring her, continues):… hobbies,artistic abilities, favorite authors—


MELANIE (Astonished):Authors?


MALE VOICE (Cool):Why not? Suppose you noticed that your Russian physicist is reading DanielleSteele. Don’t you think that tells you something about him?


MELANIE (Laughs briefly):I suppose so. (Quickly turns businesslike). This is all very amusing… but what about genetic makeup?


MALE VOICE: We check for Tay-Sachs Disease, Huntington’sdisease, Gaucher’s disease, Wilson’s disease, Crohn’s disease… again, you getthe idea. All donors are rigorously screened…. Additional tests may berequested… at your expense, of course. We do accept Master Card or Visa… but noAmerican Express. Full reports are available.


MELANIE: Could I get a photo?


MALE VOICE: This is a sperm bank, not a dating service. Ourprofiles will give you more data than most wives ever get.


MELANIE: I’m a widow… not a wife. And I don’t want to adopt.I want to be a biological mother bearing my own child… and timeis running out.


MALE VOICE: We’ll provide a fertile donor… but no photos.


MELANIE (To herself):I was hoping I’d convince myself that an anonymous sperm donor would do. Butno, I think I’ve got to hear the answers, not just read them. No…even that’s not enough…. I guess I had to come here to find out I need to knowthe man.


MALE VOICE: A sperm bank may not be your first port of callthen. (Pause) Romance is in short supplyhere. All we’ve got is billions of sperm, but no partners.


MELANIE: But I need one of each.





E-Mail Interlude


After Scene 3



To: <VSlavsky@netvision.ru>


Date:Mon, 04 Dec 2000 11:32:28




            Icontinue to be surprised by the intensity of my desire for you and stunned byits persistence. A bridge connects, but it also separates—as does sexualpleasure. I have prided myself that what we had wasn’t simply a one-nightstand, but now I realize that a four-night stand is not much longer. Does thepersistence of my desire—almost 8 months now—add to those days? Does it makethis a 240-night stand? And can desire alone make something substantial out ofwhat we did? Not mine alone, certainly. But if it were ours? OUR desire?




Scene 4. (January 2001, living room area of a hotelsuite at a scientific Congress).


The only light is a dim lamp on an end table or straymoonlight through a window. Upstage center is a partially open bedroom door.Suddenly, MELANIE is silhouetted in the doorway, barefoot, wearing nothing buta man’s shirt, with a small object in her right hand. She tiptoes quickly andquietly to the end table next to a sofa where a zippered toilet bag is seen inthe dim light. It immediately becomes obvious that she is holding a used,extended condom. Carefully, in a time-consuming manner, she ties the open topof the condom into a knot and then reaches for the bag, trying (unsuccessfully)to unzipper it. Finally, holding the condom between her teeth, sheuses both hands to open the bag and removes a small, wide-mouth thermos bottle(or preferably, a Dewar flask), which she unscrews. She drops the condomdirectly from her mouth into the thermos, screws top on tightly with visibleeffort, then replaces it in the bag and closes the zipper. She is about toreturn to the bedroom when VITALY, sheet or blanket wrapped around him in togafashion, appears in the doorway.


MELANIE (Recovers quickly from her surprise): Vitaly!


VITALY (Bantering):Did you expect room service?


MELANIE (Coyly): Notso soon again.


VITALY: I missed you.


MELANIE: So soon after—


VITALY: Especially so soon.


MELANIE: Well… here I am.


VITALY: But why did you leave?


MELANIE: Man proposes but woman disposes. Don’t ask… it’s awoman’s thing. (Quickly leads him to sofa. They cuddle affectionately)


VITALY: A penny for your thoughts.


MELANIE: No need to bribe me! Just a kiss.


VITALY: It’s a deal. (Kisses her briefly). And now the thought.


MELANIE: You call that a kiss?


VITALY: It’s a down payment. The rest will follow after Ihear the thought.


MELANIE: The rest of the kiss better be good. Now… rememberwhen you asked me to join you in the sauna? As a pretext for inspecting me…unclothed?


VITALY: You weren’t naked! You were wrapped in a towel.


MELANIE: I already told you… in a sauna it’s prudent to beprudish.


VITALY: Your towel was pretty short.


MELANIE: Still… it covered the essential parts.


VITALY: Which, of course, made it all the more exciting.


MELANIE: I think the sauna was your pond.


VITALY: What are you talking about?


MELANIE: Do you remember the story you told me in the sauna?


VITALY: What story?


MELANIE: About King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.


VITALY: Ah, yes. When the King hopped into the queen’s bedor vice versa—


MELANIE (Playfully outraged): What do you mean… “vice versa”? She would never have done that!Queens are taught to be prudent! What you told me… (proceeds to actit out playfully by grabbing a towel or table cloth or other suitable cloth tocover her legs while describing the story)…was that Solomon ordered the construction of a pond in front of his throne andhad it covered with glass. When the Queen of Sheba approached his throne andsaw the water, she raised her long gown (raises the towel) so asnot to get it wet. That’s when he saw her gorgeous legs.


VITALY: And nine months later… (Gives her an intimatekiss and whispers)… the Queen bore fruit.


MELANIE: Wasn’t Solomon married when he met the Queen?


VITALY: What’s that got to do with her becoming pregnant?


MELANIE: Lot’s of women could give you an answer. Of course,she may just have wanted a child and decided to help herself to Solomon’s seed—


VITALY: At least that could never happen to me.


MELANIE: Because you’re smarter than Solomon?


VITALY: Because I’m infertile… from a radiation accident.Severe oligospermia the specialist called it… always using Greek words when“you have too few sperm” would do perfectly well.


MELANIE (Taken aback):So that’s why you once said you can’t have children anymore? I thought you’dmeant your age.


VITALY: You still remember what I said eight months ago? Howtime flies.


MELANIE: No… how slowly it passes. Eight long months.


VITALY (A bit touchy):How could we help that?We had nochoice I live in Russia and you in the States.


MELANIE: And you’re married….And I shouldn’t allow myselfthe luxury… or is it the poverty?... of falling in love with a married man.


VITALY:Melanie… I have fallen in love with you—


MELANIE (Interrupts): Men are different… they make love to women but basically,they’re out to spread their seed.


VITALY: Not me.I’m infertile.


MELANIE:Infertility is relative.


VITALY: Mineseems pretty absolute to me.


MELANIE: If youhave absolutely no sperm, you’re absolutely infertile. But that’spretty rare. Reproductive science is moving so rapidly nowadays… (Catchesherself before finishing sentence). But enough ofscience. As we both know, ours is not a scientific congress.


VITALY: Sowhere does that leave us?


MELANIE: Itleaves me waiting for the next scientificCongress… that my married lover always attends… alone.


And do I now have to wait for another 12 months… forthe next Kirchberg Conference… which my married lover always attends (beat)alone?


VITALY: Can you accept that?


MELANIE: I’m not sure. I’ve never had an affair before.


VITALY: But Melanie, there is a bond.


MELANIE: There is one… or we wouldn’t be here. (Beat). Oh, Vitaly…


VITALY (Gently): Giveme something I can take with me.




VITALY: A strand of hair will do.


MELANIE: Help yourself.


VITALY: I will… later… after I’ve decided from where. (Kissesher). What would you like of me?


MELANIE (Gently disengages herself): Perhaps you’ve already given me all I’ve beenmissing.





E-Mail Interlude


After Scene 4




To: <VSlavsky@netvision.ru>

Subject: YOURGift

Date: Sat, 10Feb 2001 20:17:42


Dearest Vitaly,


I am on pins andneedles, because tomorrow is the great day in the lab —perhaps the mostimportant one of my life. Cross your fingers for me! If you bring me luck, thenyou have given me the greatest gift you could offer.


In haste,


Your Melanie



ACT 2.


Scene 5 (Sunday, February 11, 2001). MELANIE, insurgical gown and cap, is sitting by the side of the lab table with a standardICSI setup consisting of microscope, micromanipulators and related gadgetry aswell as a VCR unit connected to the microscope to project the image on a screen(or TV monitor). She sits perpendicular to the screen so that she can observethe images on the screen while pretending to look through the microscope.

FELIX (Enters without knocking): Here I am... punctual as usual. You’re all set up.


MELANIE (Impatient): I’vebeen here for quite a while. Change into a gown.


FELIX: This morning is my personal quality time with thekids. Skipping that is a real sacrifice. Don’t I deserve some credit?


MELANIE (Brusquely): Nottoday! Let’s get started.


(While he puts on gown, MELANIEcontinues adjusting the microscope)


FELIX: Didn’t anybody tell you that today is Sunday,supposedly a day of rest. You haven’t stopped in two months.


MELANIE: Felix. This is science, not religion.


FELIX: Oh yeah? If this works, don’t think you won’t beaccused of playing God.


MELANIE: Let’sworry about that later. Right now, I need steady hands.

(Starts to put on plastic gloves)


FELIX: Ofcourse you do. With a pipette one tenth the thickness of a human hair! But ifyour hands are shaking, I can do the first injection.


MELANIE: Out ofthe question.


FELIX: Didn’t Ipass with flying colors practising on those hamstereggs?


MELANIE: Youdid okay with my hamsters, but now let’s get to the real stuff….


FELIX: Before you do… one last time: why don’t you tell mefrom where you got those eggs?


MELANIE: Why play that broken record again? How often do Ihave to tell you? This is my experiment!


FELIX: But I’m your collaborator! Doesn’t that give me theright to know?


MELANIE: Sure… but all in good time. Now let’s start.


FELIX: I guess there’s nopurpose arguing with you.


MELANIE (Bendsover microscope): We’ve got sevenfirst-class eggs harvested—all from the same woman. Let’s see how I do with thefirst couple of eggs. If everything works out, I’ll let you do the next two.I’ll then finish with the rest.

            (Finishesputting on rubber gloves)

Here we go. Felix… would you start the VCR and turn on thetape recorder? I want you to follow on the monitor what I’m doing here underthe microscope.


FELIX: Why a tape recorder?


MELANIE: For this first ICSIexperiment in history, I want a complete record… picture and sound.


FELIX: Ay, ay… captain, they’re both on.

Pushes the button and turnstoward the screen. Both are completely silent as the screen lights up. MELANIEis hunched over the microscope, both hands manipulating the joysticks on eachside of the microscope. She sits so as to be able to coordinate her words toaction on the screen.


Ah… here we are. (Startled). God, this sperm is low-grade stuff.


(For the initial image with lotsof virtually immobile sperm, have rapid ad-libbing between MELANIE and FELIX to match images onscreen, such as)


MELANIE: What do you expect from a functionally infertileman?


FELIX (Startled):What? Are you crazy? Sperm from an infertile man? Why did you—?


When image of a couple ofactively moving sperm appears, MELANIE, unwilling to disclose at this pointsource of sperm, interrupts.


MELANIE(Speed up tempo and excitement of ad-libbing such as): Not now, Felix. But these two areswimming—a good sign….


FELIX (Distracted from his concern as single active spermappears at bottom of image, excitedly interrupts, though with sarcasm): Oh yeah, great… two real machos…


            (Dialoghas to be exactly coordinated with the events on the screen.)


MELANIE: With my ICSI, I need only one…. But first I’ve gotto crush its tail so the sperm can’t get away….


(Gasps as sperm headsunexpectedly for capillary, then raises voice, shrilly, almost hysterically)


Oh my God! Look! Felix! Look!… It’s heading straight for thecapillary—head first!


FELIX: Oh no! It’s going the wrong way! What now?


MELANIE (Regains calm voice): I’ll have to kick it out and start all over.

(Pause while she ejects sperm)

Out you go! Bet you won’t do that again.

(Quickly moves pipette towardsperm and sounds jubilant as the injection pipette crushes the sperm’s tail)



FELIX: Ouch! Be careful! I bet you hurt him!


MELANIE: That’s what you think! Sperm have no feeling. Nowcomes the tricky part. I’ve got to aspirate it tail first…. As soon as I getclose enough, just a little suction will do the trick…. Hah! Gotcha!


FELIX: Not bad! Not bad at all.

(Screen image displays the sperm, tail first,being sucked into the pipette. Image now shows MELANIE “playing” the sperm’shead by moving it back and forward to demonstrate that she can manipulate iteasily).

Quit playing with him! You’ve only got this single one!


MELANIE: I’m not playing with it. I just want to be sure Ican manipulate it at will…. And why do you always call sperm “him”? (Silencefor a few seconds until image of egg appears).Here we are. Isn’t she gorgeous? Just look at her… my preciousbeauty… now stay still while I arrange you a bit… while I clasp you on mysuction pipette…


FELIX (Points to image of polar body on screen): Polar body on top….


MELANIE: Like a little head. I want it in the 12 o’clockposition.

            (Eggon screen is now immobilized in precisely the desired position for the


Felix, now cross your fingers.

            (Heleans forward, clearly fascinated. Injection pipette containing sperm

            appearson image but pipette remains immobile.)


FELIX: This is no time for superstition. Just push thecapillary in!


MELANIE: It’s just…

(Pause, while image on screenshows injection pipette now aligned exactly in 3 o’clock position with respectto egg)

… doing the very first human ICSI experiment with thissperm into… this egg…

(MELANIE lets out audible gaspof relief as pipette penetrates the egg).


FELIX: (Makes sudden start, as if he had been pricked): My God! You did it! Superb penetration!

            (Imageshows pipette resting within egg).

Now shoot him out!

            (Pointsto sperm head in pipette)


MELANIE: Here we go.

            (Imageshows sperm head at the very end of the injection pipette, but it

is not expelled. She aspiratesit back into capillary and gives it a second push).

Damn you! First you jump in when you aren’t wantedand now you don’t come out when you should! You’ve got to!


FELIX (Attempts humor):At least this one has never heard of premature ejaculation.


            (Atthird attempt, one can clearly see the sperm head emerging on the

            screenfrom the pipette into the egg cytoplasm).


MELANIE: Ah, that’s a good boy. (Carefully withdrawspipette).


FELIX (Excited): Youdid it, Melanie! Look at him… just look at him! Sitting in there.

            (Approachesimage and points to sperm head on screen. Calmervoice).

It’s amazing. That egg looks… what shall I say? Inviolate,almost virginal.


MELANIE (Looks up for first time from microscope): It better not be... I violated it very consciouslyand tomorrow I expect to see cell division…. Felix (points to VCR), turn off the VCR.

(He does so).


FELIX (Turns accusatory):But Melanie, whose crummy sperm are you using here?


MELANIE: Turn off the tape recorder. I don’t need yourcomplaints on record.


FELIX: They were barely moving…. You could hardly havechosen worse.


MELANIE (Bantering):I could have picked sperm from a dead man.


FELIX: Are you implying that ICSI could be used with suchsperm? Or are you just joking? And if you are… (shakes finger), this is not the time for jokes.


MELANIE: I’m not joking… I’m just speculating. If the spermfrom a dead fertile man is aspirated within a few hours postmortem…maybe even after 24 hours… just so we still have some twitching sperm... onecould preserve such semen for months, if not years and then still use itfor ICSI. It’s been done with mice.


FELIX: And you think that’s okay?


MELANIE: You asked whether ICSI fertilization with the spermof a recently deceased man were possible and I said, yes. You didn’t askwhether it was OK.


FELIX: I am asking now! Would you use a deadman’s sperm and, I suppose, a frozen egg of a deceased woman to generate instantorphans?


MELANIE: No… I wouldn’t go that far.


FELIX: But somebody else might.


MELANIE: Kids need at least one parent… preferably two.


FELIX (Ironic): I’mrelieved to hear that. (Pause).So who is the father?


MELANIE: There isn’t any father in the usual sense of theword.


FELIX: An immaculate conception?


MELANIE: You know… in a way that’s true. There was nopenetration of the woman, no sexual contact. In fact, at that moment, there wasno woman, no vagina… nor a man (pause)….The only prick (pause)… was thegentle one by a tiny needle entering an egg in a dish, delivering a singlesperm. (Laughs). Even that prickwas provided by a woman. (Pause)If this ICSI injection works… and we’ll find this out in a couple of days… Iwant you to take the developing embryo, insert it into a woman… and then treather kindly for the next 8 or 9 months until delivery of the baby.


FELIX: Where did this egg comefrom?


MELANIE: From me.


FELIX: What? Experiment on yourself?


MELANIE: Why not? It’s not as if there isn’t a tradition ofself-experimentation in medicine. Who was it in malaria? Or was it yellowfever?


FELIX: Jesse Lazear. Yellow fever. (Pause). And he died from it.


MELANIE: I’d rather think of Barry Marshall. It’s a happierstory. He’s the Australian who had to infect himself with H. pylori before anybody would believe that it’s the causativeagent of ulcers. He got ulcers, but survived and got famous.


FELIX: He was dealing with ulcers. You’re dealing withbabies. Some babies may cause ulcers, but most don’t.


MELANIE (With dismissive gesture): I’m not prone to ulcers. Why couldn’t these eggs (Pointsto the microscope) come from here? (Gesturestoward her lap). What you saw on thisscreen came from me. And so did the other six over there… (Points to Petridish).


FELIX: We should wait until we’ve established that ICSIworks before using your own eggs? It’s bad science… adding an emotionalvariable. It’s crazy.


MELANIE: It isn’t crazy...it’s human. I’llbecome a mother…and then famous.


FELIX: Melanie…we’re in this together. If you give birth, we publish together… andtriumphantly. But if there’s no baby… or even worse, a genetically damaged one…where does that leave things?


MELANIE: Felix,you have two kids... and age doesn’t matter to you. You can have more. But mytime is running out. Don’t forget, I didn’t freeze any of my young eggs. Everyyear I wait now increases the risk.


FELIX: All right…all right. But did you really handpick thislousy sperm? Why, for heaven’s sake? Why didn’t you go to a sperm bank?


MELANIE: I’ve been to a sperm bank—




MELANIE: Nothing happened. I just couldn’t deal with ananonymous sperm donor. Period. I wanted to know the biological father ofmy child.


FELIX (Sarcastic): Youcannot deal with an anonymous sperm donor? You—who with ICSI—will haveconverted the average man—the donor of millions of sperm—into the provider of asingle sperm? You—the mother of that intelligent New World as you calledit not so long ago? And yet you have to know the donor of this bachelorsperm? What, may I ask, are you searching for in a biological father? Looks canbe deceiving. What about health, for instance?


MELANIE: Overall health, even looks, may sound fine onpaper… but there are also intangibles you only sense about someone: kindness,wisdom, savoir-faire, charisma… all kinds of personal things. In a sperm bank,you find sperm… not a man. With ICSI I can consider everything.


FELIX: I don’t see how you can. Or are you deliberatelyangling for an infertile man in your pool of potential fathers to provethe value of ICSI?


MELANIE: It’s not a question of deliberately angling. It’sjust that you don’t have to throw such a fish back into the water.


FELIX: But that’s crazy! Why take such a risk?


MELANIE: Because that pool of potential fathers… as you soaptly called it … contained only one fish that interested me.


FELIX: And you caught him?


MELANIE: And what if I did? Remember… these are myeggs we’re injecting….


FELIX: This first attempt at ICSI fertilization must bescience… it can’t be romance! Why is this man infertile? Have you looked intothat? If there’s some genetic information we’re missing, you could give birthto who knows what.


MELANIE: When the time comes, I’ll take the necessaryprecautions.


FELIX (Vehemently): Whenthe time comes? You have already used that sperm! As your clinical partner, Ihave the right to know the source of that man’s infertility! Most of the spermwere barely motile. Why? There may be all kinds of reasons for his manhood… ifyou permit a delicate phrase… to be incomplete.


MELANIE: Incomplete manhood! Oh you sensitive men! (Pause). But the answer is yes… of course, I know why.


FELIX: So what is it?


MELANIE: In due time—


FELIX: “In due time?” I want to know now!


MELANIE: I’m afraid, you’ll have to be patient.


FELIX: But I’m your clinician!


MELANIE: Exactly! At this point, we do not even know whetherwe have achieved fertilization. And even if we have, whether the embryoimplants. That’s when you come in.


FELIX: And what precautions will you take?


MELANIE: Pre-implantation genetic screening of the embryobefore transfer into me… and, of course, repeating it later by fetal screening.


FELIX: You can’t screen for everything. There are conditionswhere infertility in the donor is associated with serious genetic disorders inthe offspring. Cystic fibrosis, for one. The odds are high there: one out offour.


MELANIE: I know all about that. You’re talking about mensuffering from congenital, bilateral absence of the vas deferens. (Pause). You see, I can also spout medical mumbo jumbo.


FRANKENTHALER: Let’s not get technical right now. I’mtalking about the principle of the thing.


MELANIE: And I’m talking about the technical principle: menwith that condition have no sperm in their ejaculate. I can assure you thatthis man did ejaculate that sperm! I didn’t have to aspirate it.


FELIX (Angry): ForGod’s sake, Melanie! Many other factors can lead to genetic abnormalities...and if such a baby is born, you can kiss the whole thing good-by.


MELANIE: Kiss what good-bye?


FELIX: The ICSI paper. How will you justify sending it offif the result is some genetic... (Flustered pause)... oddball... or whatever?


MELANIE: Felix! We’re dealing with a potential life... notjust a journal article! Besides… it won’t be sent off until the baby is born.


FELIX (Shakes head):And the man gave his consent to all that?


MELANIE: Deep down, I know he’d like to be a father.


FELIX: How deep?


MELANIE (Angry and loud):Stop it! This is not the time for such questions.


FELIX: This is a legal matter


MELANIE (Completely loses her temper): Shut up! I’m doing science… important science… andyou’re spouting legalese. (Looks at her shaking hands). How am I expected to do the second ICSI now?


FELIX: I repeat! Did you get his consent?


MELANIE (Rips off gloves):I’m taking a break!

            (Exits,slamming the door.)


For a few seconds, FELIX looks grimly into space, thenturns around and turns on video image, which again shows “dead” sperm seenearlier in scene. Suddenly reaches decision. Rushes to laboratory table,rummaging around (ostensibly looking for a condom). In desperation, he hastilygrabs a fresh plastic glove and rushes off stage.




Scene 6. (Five minutes later). FELIX in surgical gown rushes into the lab,extended plastic glove (used in lieu of condom) in hand. Trying to open newsyringe with one hand, he finally holds glove between his teeth while rippingoff plastic cover of syringe. Quickly aspirates sperm from glove, drops asample unto plate and places it under microscope. Turns on VCR. A new videoimage of very actively swimming sperm—quite different from “dead” sperm inpreceding scene—appears on video monitor or screen. Puts on fresh plasticgloves and face mask.)


FELIX (Looks up, gazes satisfied at image for severalseconds, then murmurs loudly to himself): Nowthat’s better!


(Mimes manipulation with themicroscope while image of sperm capture

and subsequent injection intoegg appears again on screen. At

appropriate moments speaks tohimself, adlibbing along following lines)


Here you are, Melanie. Now let’s see what we can do withyou. (Short pause). Relax, Melanie. I’llbe very gentle… it won’t hurt. (Short pause).

(Suddenly, MELANIE enters).

And now… bear fruit and multiply.


MELANIE (Sees on the screen image of sperm being injectedinto egg): Felix! What the hell are youdoing?


(Startled, FELIX jumps up, inthe process knocking over lab stool. Rips off

facemask and quickly reaches forglove serving as condom substitute.

Attempts to throw it intowastebasket but misses. Stands up to block

MELANIE’s view of microscope).


FELIX: I thought I might as well ICSI the next egg. I knewyou were upset and feeling shaky…


MELANIE: Felix, we agreed that I would do the first twoeggs, and if it went well, you would do the next two.

(Bends down to pick up glove fromfloor, but does not throw it into wastebasket).

And I wanted to observe your manipulation!


FELIX: To be sure that I do it as well as you? You know Ihad no problems practicing with hamster eggs. (Switches to conciliatory tone). Melanie… I’m really sorry I lost my temper earlieron. (Pause). But I guess someproblems just take care of themselves.


MELANIE: I don’t think this is one of them.


FELIX: Why don’t we decide right now how many embryos totransfer back into you after we have injected the other eggs?


MELANIE (Fidgeting with discarded glove in her hands): For the first time around, let’s do two. Theremaining embryos we’ll freeze.


FELIX: As you wish. I’ll just pick the two best lookingones.

(Quickly takes glove out of herhand and this time discards it successfully in wastepaper basket).


MELANIE: No! I want to do the choosing.


FELIX: But I’m an expert in choosing embryos. That’s whyI’ve got such a high batting average in my IVF practice.


MELANIE: And that’s why I’m having you do the insertion. ButI also know how to pick embryos and I want to do that now.


FELIX: I don’t understand.


MELANIE: This is the first time in history that a woman hasinserted a sperm directly into her own egg. Why have a man… even a man likeyou… pick the embryos for her? You might pick the two you injected.Don’t you understand?


FELIX (Disingenuously):But why should you care whose hand was on the injection pipette? It’s stillyour own egg that’s being put back into you.


MELANIE: That’s not the issue. What I did was the equivalentof having sex and fertilization all by myself.


FELIX (Astonished):And you find that attractive? Some people would call it gross.


MELANIE: I didn’t say it was attractive. It’s just… a deeplyemotional thing. A man wouldn’t understand.


FELIX: Look… as the ICSI scientist, you want to becomefamous.... That I can understand. But your hurry to become a mother is cloudingyour scientific judgment. That’s where I come in… your ICSI partner… to look atthe situation dispassionately. Selection of the best embryos for transfershould be done without emotion…. After the injection pipette is withdrawn fromthe egg and fertilization has started … after ICSI has been completed… yourrole, as scientist, is over.


MELANIE: Oh, really? Who’ll write the paper?


FELIX: We’ll both write the paper. But otherwise, your Ph.D.is useless… you’re now a prospective mother.


MELANIE: That’s where you’re wrong! I’ll be a pregnant Ph.D.


FELIX: Still… choosing the embryo is where the transitionfrom you to me ought to start. Don’t you trust me? (Pause). Come on, MELANIE! I’m your partner… by your ownfree choice.


MELANIE: I trust you.


FELIX: In that case, I’ll select the two embryos I considerbest before transferring them… with loving care… back into you. (Pats herhand or other reassuring gesture).


MELANIE: Hand over the entire choice? No… I can’t. It’s nota question of trust… it’s a question of… (Pause)… what shall I call it? Emotional ownership. (Pause). But I’ll split the difference with you. I’ll pickthe first one. And you can bet, it will come from one of the eggs I injected!Then I’ll let you pick thesecond.


FELIX (Reluctant):One embryo each?


MELANIE (Firm): Amonumental concession on my part: one embryo each!


FELIX: Okay.

(They shake hands).


MELANIE (Approaches microscope): Great! Now that that’s settled, let’s finish ICSIing the other eggs.


FELIX (Quickly beats her to microscope): Can I continue with the next one since I stillhave some sperm here? You take over again with the fourth.

(Starts putting on rubbergloves)


MELANIE: Good idea.


FELIX (Bends over the microscope): But first let me catch a good sperm. Then you canturn on the VCR and watch me do the rest.


MELANIE: Stage fright? Nonsense! I want to see you catch it.


FELIX: (Disingenuously continues conversation whileactually commencing work): It’s a man’shang-up. It’s brutal enough crushing the sperm’s tail under the microscopewithout it being magnified and recorded. A woman wouldn’t understand.


MELANIE (Laughs):Poor squeamish Felix! You behaved the same way when I caught the first one. Youthought I was “playing” with him.


All right… I’ll humor you. But the moment you’ve got thatsperm in your capillary, I want to see the image on the monitor.


FELIX (Relieved, while focusing on his work under themicroscope): It’s a deal. As soon as I getthe little fellow into the capillary, you’ll see it all. (Pause whilehe manipulates joysticks). Here she is! Nowyou can turn on the VCR.

            (Briefview of egg from earlier video appears on screen).


MELANIE (Enchanted):Another beauty!

(Long pause while image showsFELIX completing the sperm injection).

You did it!


FELIX: We did it.








E-Mail Interlude


After Scene 6at start of Act 2


From: <VSlavsky@netvision.ru>


Subject: Oncemore

Date: Tue, 28Aug 2001 09:42:04



Melanie—I may bean engineer, but I have started to hate all electronic forms of communication.I have no idea whether any of my recent e-mails ever reached you. I havereceived no replies, not even bounced messages. And when I tried to telephone,all I got was your answering machine. Hearing your voice—your very ownvoice—was hardly reassuring. I don’t even know when that impersonal message wasrecorded. No music, no kitschy message, just “This is Melanie Laidlaw. I’llcall back when I can.”


Did you get mylast snail mail letter? I had hoped that you’d be pleased by the news.


I am leaving ina couple of days for the States on business. As soon as I get there, I’ll stopat your lab. (Do you realize that I don’t even have your private address?)


Until then,







Subject: A favor

Date: Tue, 28Aug 2001 51:34:19


Felix, my dearmidwife,


Physically, Ifeel marvelous, though so huge that I wouldn’t even mind a somewhat earlydelivery. But something else suddenly came up for which I need your assistance.Not as a clinical collaborator, but as a friend, which means that it is trulyurgent and that I can’t ask anyone else.


Give me a ringas soon as you’re back in town.





Scene 7 (September 2001, Dr. Melanie Laidlaw’slaboratory; same setting as in Scene 6, except that teapot and cups are alsovisible). MELANIE, seven months pregnant, sipping tea, sits by table. FELIXenters, a transparent plastic bag of Chinese fortune cookies in his hand.


FELIX (Ebullient): Avery good afternoon to you, Dr. Laidlaw. Your midwife read your e-mail and isnow reporting.

(Kisses her on cheek and wavesbag with fortune cookies).

What every pregnant woman needs in her seventh month:Chinese fortune cookies.


MELANIE: Is this a friend’s gift or a doctor’s prescription?


FELIX: Doctor’s prescription. Go ahead... try one.

(He looks on as MELANIE breaks one open, readsmessage, puts it down and starts to open a second cookie.)

You’ve got to eat it before opening another. And what’swrong with this one? Is it text or taste?



(Shoves over paper slip).


FELIX (Starts reading proffered slip and laughs): I’ll be damned! “Your problems are too complicatedfor fortune cookies.” Let’s open another one.

(Quickly opens another, scansit, and then hands message to MELANIE).


MELANIE: “Fortune cookies are for the fools that buy them.”(Laughs). What happened to “Confuciussays?” But why fortune cookies in the first place? Here I am, big as a blimp, 7months pregnant... everything on schedule. We should celebrate… but not withthis stuff. Laidlaw and Frankenthaler... three quarters toward the summit ofICSI.


FELIX: And no complications. From now on... getting up tothe top doesn’t involve much science. Now all you need is a good doctor... likeme... and a bit of luck.


MELANIE: Well, thank goodness. That explains the fortunecookies.


FELIX: So back to science. In the ICSI paper—


MELANIE; Which I have started to write—


FELIX: High time! We agreed not to disclose the identity ofthe egg donor in the ICSI paper.


MELANIE: It’s enough that you and I know.




MELANIE (Suspicious):But what?


FELIX: But by now… as co-author with my 7-months pregnantcolleague, I’ve simply got to know the source of that man’s infertility. It’sgot to be mentioned in the paper. I presume he’s on cloud 9, considering howfew sperm of his I saw on the monitor. And now he’s about to become the firstICSI father in history! What did he say when you first told him?


MELANIE: He knows nothing. I haven’t seen him for months. Hedoesn’t live here. He lives in Akademgorodok.


FELIX: Where on earth is that?


MELANIE: In Siberia.


FELIX: You had an affair in Siberia?


MELANIE: I met him in Europe. And he’s married.


FELIX: That, at least, I suspected... otherwise you surelywould have told me about him. But didn’t you say you had his consent?


MELANIE: I said, he once wanted to be a father. You wantconsent for one miserable sperm?


FELIX: Damn it, yes! I have a right to ask, at least in mycapacity as partner in a potential crime.


MELANIE (Exasperated):Crime?


FELIX (Irritable):How did you get a sperm sample without his knowledge?


MELANIE: What’s the difference?


FELIX: Come on, Melanie. How did you get it?


MELANIE: On one occasion... I kept the condom.


FELIX (Openly sarcastic):And then you took it to the lab? Or did you have intercourse in the lab?


MELANIE: Don’t be ridiculous. (Pleading). Felix, why go through all this?


FELIX: If not for the sake of collegial courtesy, how aboutprofessional curiosity?


MELANIE (Resigned, yetimpatient): All right. I brought a smallDewar flask in my toilet bag and dropped the condom in it.


FELIX: You stole his seed!


MELANIE: Felix! So biblical! Any lawyer would tell you thatwhen he ejaculated in my vagina, it was an irrevocable transfer of title toproperty from a donor to a recipient. And there certainly was no agreement thatthe original deposit would be returned upon request.


FELIX: Melanie, stop joking! This is serious.


MELANIE: Seriously then. How can I steal something that theowner considers worthless? (Dismissive).A used condom, for God’s sake. It was junk. Taking someone else’s garbage orjunk is not theft.


FELIX: Junk and garbage are not the same. Junk is what youkeep around. It only becomes garbage when you throw it away. In his body, aman’s semen is mostly junk, not garbage. You, of all people, a reproductivebiologist, should know that.


MELANIE: Stop acting so clever! If my egg is injected withan otherwise infertile sperm under a microscope and then put in a Petri dishuntil cell division is confirmed, are you going to tell me that I’m nowpregnant? Or that life has now begun? The egg has to be reintroduced into me,into my body... and it must implant in my uterus. Only then canwe discuss the question of life. (Pause).Fertilization and pregnancy aren’t synonymous.


FELIX (Derisive): Youdon’t say! The entire abortion morality debate revolves around that issue… notto speak of stem cells.

MELANIE: And for me right now, it’s an issue of birth... notabortion. I’m speaking as a pregnant woman in her seventh month, who, let’s notforget, invented ICSI. It’s my method.


FELIX: Our method.


MELANIE: I beg to differ! ICSI, as a procedure, wasdeveloped by me in animal models. And you know perfectly well how many yearsthat took before I even got ICSI to work in hamsters! Converting this inventioninto human reality, producing a baby, that’s our joint project.


FELIX: Okay, okay.…


MELANIE: So it’s my method that transformed hisgarbage...sorry, I should’ve said junk... into something that could be used.That’s not theft.


FELIX: There are other ways of becoming a mother. For instance,adoption. It would have been better all around... and ICSI would have remainedscience, clean and uncontaminated.


MELANIE: I’m not the adoptive kind… I’m possessive. I wantedmy own biological child. (Pause). Andthen I met a man, who came out of the blue like a sexual angel... whom I couldsee as the biological father.…


FELIX: Why not beyond that?


MELANIE: Because he was married. (Pause). Because he considered himself infertile... and sodid his wife. (Pause). So whatshould I have done?


FELIX: People are known to leave one marriage for another.


MELANIE: I know. That’s what he wrote recently: he’s gettingdivorced.


FELIX: What else did he write? Or was it just about the firstsnowstorm in Siberia. After all, it’s already September.


MELANIE: Felix, don’t be a wise guy. It doesn’t become you.(Pause). He wrote he had business in theStates and is coming over here.


FELIX: To see you?


MELANIE: I guess so.


FELIX: Guess? But haven’t the two of you kept in touch sinceyou saw each other last?


MELANIE (Guilty): Wedidn’t. I know it bothered him, but what could I do? How could I keep up acorrespondence with a former (pause)...lover without mentioning my pregnancy?


FELIX: Now that he’s getting divorced, what will you tellhim?


MELANIE: Nothing.


FELIX: But that’s absurd!


MELANIE: I want a baby of my own… and you call that absurd?


FELIX: Are you keeping him in the dark because you want thebaby all to yourself?


MELANIE (Outraged):What alternatives do I have? Should my baby... my only biological child...commute between the States and Siberia? Or must I move to Akademgorodok? I canhardly spell the name of the city.


FELIX: Maybe the father could move to the States.


MELANIE: And what if he doesn’t?


FELIX: Would you have gotten yourself pregnant without him?Let me put it another way, because this is important for me. (Speaks slowlywith emphasis). Do you just want a child ordo you want his child?


MELANIE: His child, of course. Otherwise, why would I haveselected his sperm sample? I admit that subliminally I may have been on thelookout for sperm. But every female does that... not just humans. With ICSI, Ineeded only one single sperm... but I had to know where it came from in thedeepest sense.


FELIX: My God! Here, you are... about to achieve thecreation of new life without sexual intercourse and yet you needed toacquire…that... single... precious... sperm through making love with a man!


MELANIE: To a man!


FELIX: “To” or “with”… what’s the difference?


MELANIE: A very big one! “To” is more decisive.


FELIX: And where did you learn that?


MELANIE: Self-study.


FELIX: I forgot… another talent of yours.


MELANIE: But whether “to” or “with”… I wanted a child morethan anything else... even more than fame as a scientist.


FELIX: I guess, deep down, you’re the ultimate romanticscientist!


MELANIE: (Pleading tone):Felix, even if you disapprove... at least be fair.


FELIX: I’m trying my best.


MELANIE: You promised to behave like a kind midwife, not aprosecutor.


FELIX (Conciliatory):All right. So what do you want from me?


MELANIE: I can’t possibly face him alone... I simply can’t.


(FELIX gets up, tea cup in hand, slowly pacing upand down.)


MELANIE: When he sees me like this…(points to stomach) it has to be in neutral territory. (Irritably). Felix, stop wandering around. Sit down and helpme.


FELIX (Sits down):What sort of help do you want?


MELANIE: I don’t want to hurt him when he comes thisafternoon. (Glances at watch). He may behere any time. Just try to allude to my pregnancy in some subtle way.


FELIX: It won’t take him long to notice. (Points to herstomach)


MELANIE (Beseeching):Please! It would make everything so much easier. Obviously, he would assumethat there is another man in my life.


FELIX: But why pick me? Because I’m the only one who knows?Have you never confided in anyone else? What about other women?


MELANIE: Women? I’m surrounded by people… but they’rescientists… and in this place, they’re mostly men. We talk about topics… wetalk about problems… we talk about cases… and don’t get me wrong… I do itbecause I like it. But we don’t talk about ourselves. So will you help me...you, my midwife?


FELIX (Moved): I’llgive it a try.


           (Soundof sharp knock at the door. MELANIE looks startled. Freezes).


FELIX (Whispers):Well?


(MELANIE goes slowly to the doorjust as there is a second knock and the door opens. VITALY, a bouquet of rosesin his hand, and MELANIE nearly collide, surprising each other.


VITALY (Who has not yet seen FELIX, loud and joyous): Melanie!

(About to kiss her when henotices her pregnancy.)



MELANIE (Quickly): Vitaly,let me introduce to you to my friend, Felix Frankenthaler.

            (FELIXapproaches VITALY).

And this is Vitaly Slavsky, an acquaintance from Russia.


(FELIX extends his hand and VITALY in his confusionhands over the bouquet. A thorn pricks FELIX ‘s finger).


FELIX: Ouch!

(He drops bouquet, which isretrieved by VITALY, who puts it on the lab table)


MELANIE: Vitaly, take a lab stool and join us.


VITALY: (Picks up lab stool but doesn’t take his eyes offMELANIE as he sits down). You look.…


MELANIE: ... very pregnant. (Pause). Here, have some tea... have a fortune cookie.


VITALY: Your face looks so different.…


MELANIE: You mean it’s also ballooned... like my belly?


VITALY: No, no... you look (pause)... I guess you look uneasy... and yet… what shall Icall it? Luminously aglow.


FELIX (Tries to help Melanie): Do you have fortune cookies in Russia?


VITALY: What did you say?


FELIX: Fortune cookies... You break them open... Theycontain messages.


VITALY (Dismissive):Sure I know them. They’re like horoscopes. (Addresses Melanie ). What else have you been doing since...?


MELANIE: It’s been eight months. I guess a lot has happenedto us both.


FELIX (Addressing VITALY): It won’t hurt if you try one. Here, let me break one open for you.

(Breaks open a fortune cookieand offers message to VITALY).


VITALY: You people buy these things?


MELANIE: I didn’t... I don’t believe in “messages.”


VITALY: So I gather. Neither do I.


(Takes the proffered paper slip, crushes it into aball, and throws it, unread, into the wastepaper basket some feet away, butmisses).


FELIX (Picks it up and deposits it in wastepaper basket):You need practice throwing trash.


VITALY: What? (Again turns to Melanie and studies her forseveral seconds). You have changed. Maybe Ishould call it “blooming.”


FELIX: We clinicians call it gravid.

(His telephone beeper rings,startling them all).


VITALY: Gravid?


MELANIE: I would call it “bloated.”


FELIX: Maybe we better stick to his “blooming.” It doessound more attractive.


(Opens his cellular telephone).


Hello? Just a moment. (Turns to Melanie and Vitaly). Excuse me, but I’ve got to take this call. (Exits).


VITALY: So you’re pregnant.


MELANIE: I’m afraid so.


VITALY: What’s there to be afraid about?


MELANIE (Flustered):Nothing... it’s just a figure of speech.


VITALY: Sure, like “hopping into bed.” I’ve never forgottenthat one.


MELANIE (Softly):Neither have I. (Then firmer).But yes... I’m pregnant.


VITALY: I’m sorry…. Sorry! I mean, I’m not sorry you’repregnant. I’m sorry I didn’t know…. When do you…?


MELANIE: In two months.


VITALY: I wouldn’t have barged in—


MELANIE (Relieved, now takes initiative): You didn’t barge in. It’s good to see you again.You, at least, haven’t changed. Not like me (pats stomach). So what brings you to this part of the world? Howlong are you—


VITALY (Has not been listening): Is he?


(Gestures toward door throughwhich Felix left)




VITALY: Is he the father?


MELANIE: Felix? (Laughs).


FELIX (Returns without knocking): Sorry, I had to take that call.

(Melanie and Vitaly both remain tongue-tied).

Should I leave you alone? I imagine you have lots to talkabout… catching up with news—


VITALY (Quick): No,no… I just wanted to see how Melanie was.

(Again inspects her).

You do look great… (unsuccessfully, tries humor) gravid… and happy. I don’t want to disturb youpeople. (Looks at watch). It’stime I left.


FELIX: Why don’t you stay a bit longer? We’ve barely had achance to talk.

(Turns to Melanie).

This phone call… (Taps pocket containing his cellularphone) was about apotential ICSI candidate. The couple is waiting over at the clinic. Why don’tyou go talk to them? I’ll join you after our chat.


MELANIE (Reluctant):Felix….


FELIX: Don’t worry. I’ll take care of your friend. (Quicklywalks over and kisses her on the cheek. Leads her to door).

(Turns towardVitaly).

I’m always interested in Melanie’s friends.

(Looks him over beforecontinuing)

I noticed your surprise when you saw Melanie pregnant. Ithought you knew.


VITALY: Surprise is a bit of an understatement. (Pause,while he studies him). Do you know thefather?


FELIX (Stalling, points to tea pot): Some tea?


VITALY (Motions “no” with his hand): So do you know him?


FELIX: Sometimes you can never be sure who the real fatheris. But I’ve met a likely candidate.


VITALY: What does he look like?


FELIX (Stalling, thenstarts to describe some of thefacial characteristics of the actor playing Vitaly as well as of himself along following lines):


Let me think….


mostly straight black hair… some incipient graying… a bitlike yours.

            (keepsstudying him)

I’d say his hairline is starting to recede….

            (hesitates,pretends reflection)

sort of like mine.

            (strokeshis chin)

He does have a strong chin….

(Stops stroking his chin and looksup, miming amused surprise)

I guess again somewhat like mine. And… he seems to have a 5o’clock shadow… or maybe it’s more of a stubble,

(Laughs awkwardly as he notes Vitalystroking his chin bearing a visible stubble)

come to think of it… he looks a bit like each of us.


VITALY: How old is he?


FELIX (Pretends reflection): Oh, I’d say around our age.


VITALY: That old?


FELIX: Oh come. How old are you?


VITALY: Pushing fifty.


FELIX: Ancient. (Chuckles). Or let’s say, maturing?


VITALY: I defer to your better judgment.


FELIX:Melanie... she’s an interesting woman.


VITALY:I’d have said, complicated.


FELIX:That’s all? Just... complicated?


VITALY: Tome, complicated covers a lot of terrain.


FELIX (Unableto restrain his curiosity): Where did you two first meet?


VITALY (Curtly): At a scientific congress. Melanie and I saw each other only for brief periods of time. When we did, itwas… what shall I call it?




VITALY:I would’ve picked another word, but “heartbreaking” could serve just as well.Just when I thought I really understood her... when I thought I knew what madeher tick... she... how shall I say it? She escaped.


FELIX:You’re right! She does that sometimes… she just withdraws. A curtain drops.


VITALY:No... “withdraw” is not quite the same. “Escape” is sharper... you stand lessof a chance of getting her back.


FELIX: Ithought you were good friends.


VITALY:Good? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask her. For me, good friends confide ineach other. But aren’t you a friend of Melanie’s? Actually (laughs awkwardly), I thought you were more thanthat. (Pause). Ithought you were the father.


FELIX (Curiousand flattered): Andwhy did you think that?


VITALY (Studieshim carefully): Youlooked at ease together... as if you had something in common.


FELIX (Eager): We’re partners... inreproduction. You might say we’re the parents of a procedure that will producea baby within a couple of months. By the way, do you know what Melanie isworking on... with me?


VITALY:We’ve never discussed her research.


FELIX:It’s very exciting, really. She’s found a way of taking one single sperm andinjecting it right into an egg. The procedure is called ICSI. It stands for (pronouncesslowly)intracytoplasmic... sperm... injection.


VITALY:Big words.


FELIX:For something very small: one little sperm.


VITALY (Intrigued): But isn’t that just in thelaboratory? Or does Melanie’s ICSI work in the real world?


FELIX:Oh, yes...at least it does so far. It resulted in fertilization... under themicroscope. And I was the one who transferred the resulting embryo... actuallytwo embryos... into a woman’s uterus. Fortunately, one of them implanted...right at the first try.


VITALY:Why did you transfer two embryos?


FELIX:We do that in most IVF procedures for the sake of insurance... to be sure thatat least one makes it.




FELIX:Of course, technically, the first ICSI baby is still a fetus, but Melanie isalready thinking about future applications… for instance, when sperm with Y andX-chromosomes can be separated. Once that is possible… and since you need onlyone sperm with ICSI… you can order a boy using a Y-sperm and a girl with anX-sperm. What do you think about that?


VITALY:“Ordering” a boy or a girl? Is that Melanie’s ambition? (Wags his head). Just consider the mischief thatwould cause among the Chinese… or in India…. Parents would then have mostlyboys.


FELIX (Backtracks): Perhaps I should have used theword “choose” rather than “order.” In any event, I was only describing thepractical side of the coin… not the ethical.


VITALY: The two sides of a coin may be distinguished, butsurely they can’t be separated. (Pause).But it all sounds so mechanical… injecting a sperm… choosing the sex of thechild…. What else are you people going to think of?


FELIX:I’m surprised to hear you—a scientist—say that. (Becomes progressively moreinsistent). Whyromanticize the act of conception? Why must we dress it up as (dismissive) “a mating dance between sperm andegg”? And why get upset that ICSI or other IVF procedures make that dancesuperfluous?


VITALY: It’s one thing if you use it as a treatment forinfertility. But aren’t you talking about a procedure to be used by ordinarypeople?


FELIX:And why not? In the final analysis, we are only arguing about differences indelivery vehicles: penis versus pipette. And if you want to pursue this point—


VITALY: I’d rather not.


FELIX:Of course, some people feel that there are aspects of human life that should beoff limits to science.


VITALY: You better count me among those people.


FELIX (StudiesVITALY): By theway... do you have children?


VITALY:Why do you ask?


FELIX: Aterrible habit... I’m the director of the fertility clinic here.


VITALY:Many years ago, I had a radiation accident... causing severe oligospermia. (Bitterlaugh). That endedall questions of children.


FELIX:You shouldn’t be so categorical about that. The effect of radiation exposure onsperm is very rapid, but depending on the radiation dose... and on the timeelapsed... sperm counts can recover.


VITALY:That’s exactly what the medics back home told me nearly 20 years ago. They werewrong.


FELIX:With all the recent advances in treating male infertility... and especiallyMelanie’s work—


VITALY:You mean it might work with me?


FELIX:It might... especially if your wife is fertile.


VITALY (Sardonic): She’s fertile all right.


FELIX:How can you be so certain? How would you know?


VITALY (Irritably): You’re asking too manyquestions... even for a fertility doctor.


FELIX:Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be intrusive.


VITALY:You were telling me about Melanie’s ICSI.


FELIX:If Melanie’s procedure pans out... and we’ll know that in another two months...


VITALY:You say… you’ll know in two months?


FELIX:That’s when the first ICSI baby is due. ICSI is tailor-made for men with lowsperm counts... like you. (Pause). Of course, radiation damage can cause other complications.


VITALY:I know all about that. I’m a nuclear physicist.


FELIX:In that case, I presume that even if ICSI were shown to work in a case likeyours, you wouldn’t try it.


VITALY:Why do you say that? I’d take the chance...


FELIX:You would?


VITALY:You sound surprised.


FELIX:I’m a very cautious man when it comes to genetic risks. I’d strongly adviseagainst it. As always, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.


VITALY: As always? (Grins). On occasion, there is.


FELIX: Come now. Common sense will tell you there isn’t.


VITALY: Common sense, yes. But quantum physicists will tellyou about the Casimir force, the pressure exerted by empty space. That’scertainly a free lunch.


FELIX: You lost me. What’s that got to do with ICSI?


VITALY: Nothing I was talking about free lunches. If you’regoing to be accurate about your science, be so also in your clichés.


FELIX:Serves me right. But Casimir… or no Casimir…with sperm like yours—


VITALY:My sperm? Now where could you have seen that?


FELIX: …I said, sperm like yours. I know what sperm looks like after radiationexposure.


VITALY:What about Melanie? How worried is she about such risks? After all, ICSI is herbaby.


FELIX:Sometimes, women are bigger gamblers than men.




Scene 8 (A few minutes later. Dr. Melanie Laidlaw’slaboratory, same as Scene 7). MELANIE opens the door, surprised to find VITALYwaiting.




VITALY: We have some unfinished business.




VITALY (Points at her):How did you become pregnant?


MELANIE (Flustered):“How”? The usual process… a sperm penetrating my egg—


VITALY: Don’t you mean two sperm and two eggs?After all, weren’t there two embryos? (Pause). Was it ICSI?


MELANIE: How do you know about ICSI?


VITALY: I didn’t until a few minutes ago. Your friend withthe fortune cookie… what’s his name? Frankenstein—


MELANIE: Frankenthaler.


VITALY: Whatever. He explained to me what one can do withICSI. I could hardly believe it. (Pause).So was it ICSI?




VITALY: You experimented on yourself?


MELANIE: It’s not unheard of in medicine… experimenting onyourself.


VITALY: Where did you get the sperm? A sperm bank?


MELANIE: Yes (Pause)…I mean No. I couldn’t.


VITALY: So… who‘s the father?


MELANIE: The father?


VITALY (Louder): Yes,the father!


MELANIE (Stalling):The father?


VITALY (Still louder):Yes, the father!


MELANIE (Completely loses composure): The father?…. The father?…. The father? (Grabsbouquet from table and thrusts it into his hands). You’re the father.



            (Pausefor information to sink in. Then explodes)

And you tell me this now?

            (Throwsbouquet on the floor)


MELANIE: How could I’ve told you earlier?


VITALY (Yells): I amthe father and you have the nerve to ask,

            (Attemptswith falsetto to mimic her voice)

How could I?” (Almost screaming). How could you not? In fact earlier… at themoment…

(Suddenly stops. Approaches heras if he were to do her bodily harm, causing MELANIE to flinch)

Wait a moment!… Wait! How did you get my sperm?


MELANIE (Reluctantly):I took the condom.


VITALY (Sarcastic):Ah yes… the condom! Your American obsession with safe sex! (Curiositytaking over; lowers tone). But what did youdo with it?


MELANIE: I put it in a Dewar flask containing liquidnitrogen… after adding a cryoprotectant.


VITALY (Sarcastic):Of course, every American woman carries special antifreeze while traveling. It’spart of your Puritan heritage. But liquid nitrogen? You always carry that inyour luggage?


MELANIE: Please, Vitaly...


VITALY: So everything was planned?


MELANIE: Not entirely. I didn’t know about your infertilitywhen I took the condom.


VITALY (Loud): Wereyou just on a hunt for sperm… right from the beginning?


MELANIE: Please don’t demean our relationship.


VITALY: You accuse me of demeaning? You, whoreduced me to the ultimate dimension… one puny sperm… and then kept it secret?


MELANIE: How can you say that? I acquired the sperm monthsafter we first met.


VITALY (Screams): Acquired?Goddamn it… you stole it! And for what? An experiment? And instead ofgiving me the greatest gift anyone could ever give me, you hid it. (Voicealmost breaking with emotion). Why didn’tyou just ask if I wanted to be a father?


MELANIE (Voice almost breaking): Suppose you’d said “no?” I simply couldn’t risk that… I wanted yourchild… not some anonymous man’s sperm. So I chose not to ask.


VITALY: No! You chose not to tell!


MELANIE: Vitaly, wait. Please wait. How could I when I wasfaced with the fact of your marriage—apparently a solid one.


VITALY: Some marriage!


MELANIE: I thought that was forbidden territory… thatpursuing our affair was as far as you could go… or wished to.


VITALY: That marriage was well on its way to dissolution…andnow I’m divorced.


MELANIE: I’m sorry about your divorce—


VITALY: Sorry? You… of all people!


MELANIE: Divorce after any marriage is sad.


VITALY: Any marriage? What do you know about amarriage between a supposedly infertile man and a 40-year old wife who hasalways wanted to have a child? A wife, who, he discovers, has suddenly becomepregnant?


MELANIE (Shocked):But that’s not possible!


VITALY (Bitter laugh):I forgot. You inspected my sperm under the microscope… And, of course, yourICSI hasn’t reached us yet in Russia. I know all about Immaculate Conception,but so far it hasn’t been all that frequent. (Pause) So how did she get pregnant?


MELANIE (Low voice):Another man’s sperm.


VITALY (Even more sarcastic): Brilliant deduction, Dr. Laidlaw. But (raises voice)… without her husband’s knowledge or consent! Andthat sperm was not delivered with one of your pipettes, but with an all toohuman penis. But enough of that. After all, it’s none of your concern. (Sitsdown). I came to tell you about my divorceand a lot more. But when I saw you pregnant…. (bitter laugh) I thought, what’s going on? Every woman around meis suddenly getting pregnant!


MELANIE: You think I should’ve told you then that you werethe father?


VITALY: Yes! Yes! Yes!


MELANIE: Even though I thought you were still married?


VITALY (Explosively):What’s that got to do with it? The baby is also mine.


MELANIE: If we’re going to talk about the baby, we’ve alsogot to talk about his father—


VITALY (Sarcastic):High time! But what’s that got to do with my divorce?


MELANIE (Pleading): Vitaly.Please hear me out. When you wrote me about your divorce, I thought that yourwife had discovered that we’d had an affair—


VITALY (Dismissive):That affair started over a year ago.


MELANIE: So what? It was an adulterous relationship and youknow that I felt guilty about it.


VITALY: I told you then… and I tell you now: you hadno reason to feel guilty. If there is a guilty party it’s me.


MELANIE (Stubborn):Adultery involves at least three people: two perpetrators and a victim.


VITALY: There was only one perpetrator… me… and no victim. Abrief affair between two consenting adults. Evidently too brief to be convertedinto something more permanent. No one else was involved and nobody ever learnedabout it.


MELANIE: A man’s rationalization.


VITALY: Most of us rationalize our actions. I repeat, nobodywas harmed and my wife… (bitter)… my formerwife... does not know about you to this day.


MELANIE: That’s something to be thankful for. Yet you makeit sound as if we just had a brief sexual affair and nothing more. Who’s doingthe demeaning now?


VITALY: I didn’t say “brief.” I said it was “toobrief.” That’s a big difference. But what is your point?


MELANIE: That affair led to long-lasting consequences. Andthat’s where I became the perpetrator, something that I have now openlyadmitted to you. I’ve never regretted it, though I’ve always felt guilty. Soyou see, there are three people. The third may not have been your wife—at leastnot in your eyes, though always in mine—but there is also the child.


VITALY: Exactly. And that’s—


MELANIE: Not yet! Why couldn’t you rationalize your wife’sextramarital affair in the same manner in which you rationalized what the twoof us did?


VITALY (Explodes):Because she is pregnant, that’s why.


MELANIE: Is that the only reason why you divorced your wife?What if she had not become pregnant? Would you have forgiven her for heradultery?


VITALY (Reluctant):Probably not.


MELANIE: How typical.


VITALY: Typical? You think only Russian men respondthat way to a woman’s unfaithfulness?


MELANIE: Let me rephrase it: how Biblical. Two thousandyears ago, adulterous women were stoned whereas the same behavior in men wascondoned…. Just take King Solomon.   (Both stare at each other,silently). It’s ironic, isn’t it? Bothaffairs—ours and your wife’s—were related to a woman’s desire for a childbefore it’s too late.


VITALY: You still should’ve told me.


MELANIE (Defensive):I didn’t want to raise your hopes. I had no way of knowing whether any of yoursperm was viable. Furthermore, ICSI had never been tried on a human egg. I hadno assurance that the embryo would implant in my uterus. And even now… 7 monthsafter that event… I still don’t know whether I’ll give birth to a normalchild.…


VITALY (Sudden change in tone; concerned): Don’t say that! Don’t jinx it with all those “ifs”and “whethers.”


MELANIE (Breaks into tears): Thanks for saying that.


VITALY (Confused):Why?


MELANIE: You sound like a real father.


VITALY: I am a real father!


MELANIE: I always knew that.


VITALY (Mollified): Howwas I? (Catches himself). I mean…how did it feel?


MELANIE: How did what feel?


VITALY: Well…. Women often claim that they know when theyget pregnant… that the earth shakes… that the world moves… or something likethat. But you must have actually seen the moment. (Pause). Was it like sex?


MELANIE: No… not like sex. Ours was magical, but ICSI… howcan I explain?… It was all-empowering.


VITALY: And you injected two eggs?




VITALY: And one is growing there? (Gently touches herbelly).


MELANIE: Yes… a boy of yours.


VITALY (Moved, caressesher belly): Oh, Melanie… a son. (Embraceor other gesture of affection between the two).But tell me more… about ICSI.


MELANIE: Well… first, we injected your sperm into my eggs.




MELANIE: I did the first one… and Felix did the next two. ThenI continued with the rest. And then we each picked one embryo and hetransferred them back into me. One implanted… and now it’s growing.


VITALY: Why did he choose one? (Pause). And why did you let him inject your eggs?


MELANIE: He’s my partner.


VITALY: Okay. But did he do the secondbatch as well as you did the first?


MELANIE: I hope so. (Pats stomach)


VITALY: Hope? Didn’t you watch him do it?


MELANIE: Not his first injection. I was out of the room.


VITALY: What? You mean you weren’t even there while heplayed around with your egg?


MELANIE: Played around? Vitaly… it was science we weredoing… not playing a game.


VITALY: Okay… okay. But whose sperm did he use?


MELANIE: Yours, of course. That’s all I had in my lab.


VITALY: And you trust him?


MELANIE: I have no reason not to trust him.


VITALY: Absolutely none?


MELANIE: There are very few things in life that areabsolute.


VITALY: In that case, ask Frankenstein whose sperm he used.


MELANIE (Laughs): Stopcalling him Frankenstein. But I can’t ask Felix. I was only gone for a fewminutes. It sounds silly. Where would he have gotten it… on a Sunday of alldays?


VITALY (Stubborn): Idon’t know…. (Pause). Maybe it issilly. Call it the paranoia of an infertile man. Still… why don’t you ask him?(Pause). Do me that favor…. makeit an early Father’s Day present.


MELANIE: Vitaly… I’d be embarrassed to ask!


VITALY: You’ve got more important things to be embarrassedabout. Please! Ask!




Scene 9 (One week later, Dr. Melanie Laidlaw’slaboratory, same as scene 8). FELIX enters, carrying a cake with a singleunlit candle.


FELIX (Singing):Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear ICSI, happybirthday to you.


MELANIE (Interrupts laughingly): Hold it, Felix! Whose birthday?


FELIX: This cake is for the ICSI paper. I went through yourdraft and my comments are so trivial, we might as well consider today itsbirthday.


MELANIE: Well… why not? But first let me see your (somewhatwary) “trivial” comments. (Reachesfor the manuscript, but he does not hand it over).


FELIX: But there’s one non-trivial thing we ought to settle.Especially on the birthday.


MELANIE: Meaning?


FELIX: Authorship.


MELANIE: What’s there to settle? It’s just the two of us.There are no other authors.


FELIX: But whose name comes first? We’ve never discussedthat delicate question.


MELANIE: You think it was delicacy that kept me from raisingthat issue?


FELIX: So what was it?


MELANIE: To me, it was so obvious I didn’t think there wasanything to discuss.


FELIX: Why not do it alphabetically?


MELANIE: Frankenthaler and Laidlaw? Out of the question!


FELIX: We could flip a coin.


MELANIE: We could… but we won’t! I come first, because Ithought of the idea. And then I reduced it to practice. Furthermore, it’s myegg.


FELIX: You are not going to say that your name comes firstbecause you’re the egg donor. In that case what about the sperm donor?


MELANIE (Laughs): Youmean, add Vitaly’s name between mine and yours?


FELIX: Of course not.


MELANIE: Felix, my name comes first. I wrote the manuscriptand not you. Is that understood?


FELIX (Grudgingly):Okay, okay…. Just kidding.


MELANIE: I’m not sure I believe that, but at least I’m gladto hear you say it


FELIX: In that case, let’s light the candle and celebrate.




(FELIX reaches in his pocket fora matchbox and strikes a match. At that

moment, MELANIE continues)


By the way, I never told you, but Vitaly now knows that he’sthe father.


FELIX (Stares at her speechlessly until the match burnshis finger. Stamps it out)



MELANIE: You look surprised. I told him the day you met him.




MELANIE: He was pleased… once the initial shock wore off.But there was one question he asked… admittedly a silly question… when I toldhim about the ICSI procedure.


FELIX: I bet I can guess.


MELANIE (Surprised):You can?


FELIX: He wanted to know what it felt like… when youinjected the sperm.


MELANIE (Astonished):How did you guess?


FELIX (Somewhat dismissive): Most men would think of that.


MELANIE: Did you?


FELIX: Fleetingly… but mostly I was thinking of somethingelse.


MELANIE: Do you remember what that was?




MELANIE: Would you tell me?


FELIX (Shrugs): Sure,why not?


MELANIE: What was it?


FELIX: I was still thinking of that miserable sperm when itsuddenly surfaced on the monitor. I kept wondering what was so special aboutthat mysterious man…. who had somehow managed to convert you… such a hard-nosedscientist… into a romantic.


MELANIE (Laughing):Felix! Don’t tell me you were jealous.


FELIX: I suppose I was. In fact, I still am.




FELIX: And nothing… that was it.


MELANIE: I also have a question. Can you guess that one aswell?


FELIX: I’m through, guessing.


MELANIE: You can’t guess or you don’t want to guess?


FELIX: Both.


MELANIE: When Vitaly first raised the question, it seemed sopreposterous… some kind of male hang-up. (Pause). But now, I’m almost afraid to ask.


FELIX: So don’t ask. Some questions are best left buried.


MELANIE: But I promised Vitaly I would. (Walks toward him). Why didn’t you want me to see the sperm capture onthe video? Whose sperm did you use?


FELIX (Rises and heads for the door): Melanie…if you have to ask that question, thensurely you must know the answer. (Exits)


MELANIE (Long pause until full impact of remark sinks in): You bastard!





E-Mail Interlude


After Scene 9




Subject: Finalrequest

Date: Thu, 06Dec 2001 27:02:09



Melanie—Iunderstand why you may be pissed off, but I MUST see you once more IN PERSON!


What is past ispast. But while we cannot undo history, we can take some steps about thefuture. I do not wish to discuss this by e-mail, because this is a subject thatwe must resolve face to face. Each of us owes the other an explanation, buteven if you do not wish to offer one, you owe me the professional courtesy ofallowing ME to do so.





From: mlaid@worldnet.att.com

To: f.frank@compuserve.com

Subject: Nosubject

Date: Sat, 08Dec 2001 51:34:19




The answer toyour request is NO!




Scene 10. (Early December 2001. Dr. Melanie Laidlaw’slaboratory). MELANIE (now slender) and FELIX face each other.


FELIX: I don’t get it. Your baby isone month old and you still won’t—


MELANIE: Do I have to spell it out for you? I... do...not... want... to... see... you... again! (Pause). Ever! I have nothing to say to you! And now… get out!


FELIX: For heaven’s sake! Think about it! I had no choice.

MELANIE: What made you think you were entitled to one? Wewere dealing with my eggs, my body, my prospective child—


FELIX: But also our ICSI. (Pause). One minute before performing the very firstinjection... in history... you confronted me on the monitor with a sperm samplethat only a naïve optimist or a lovesick girl would consider suitable. Myinjection was just as much for your personal benefit as for our success. Whycan’t you see that it was an insurance policy?


MELANIE (Sardonic):And you the insurance agent not even informing me that I might be paying thepremium? After deciding that your omnipotent sperm was just the ticket for me?What monumental presumption! And not the vaguest hint... until I’m thirty weekspregnant! And only then when I asked you point blank. (Pause). When you injected your sperm into my egg withoutmy knowledge or consent, you raped my egg. Do you want me to disclosethat? Rape and lack of informed consent?


FELIX: An ICSI injection into an egg isn’t rape!


MELANIE:The ICSI injection alone... without my knowledge... may be just a grossviolation of informed consent—


FELIX: Informed consent? Did you confide in the sperm donorwhat you planned to do with his miserable sperm?


MELANIE:Stop it! You already know why I couldn’t. But the birth of Ivan converted youract into potential rape… unless it is Vitaly’s embryo that implanted.


FELIX: But you could have told him about ICSI.


MELANIE: What for?


FELIX: To find out whether after a radiation accident, givenall the risks, he would’ve even considered such a method for becoming a father.


MELANIE: I didn’t want to take the chance.


FELIX: Well I did… right after you left us alone in yourlab.


MELANIE (Sarcastic):I see! And if he agreed with you, you’d have taken it as indirect approval foryour sperm substitution?


FELIX: Wouldn’t you have?


MELANIE (Sardonic): Igather he disappointed you. (Pause).And now get out of here!


FELIX: Not until you’ve heard me out. It was crazy choosingthe sperm of a radiation victim. You weren’t just dealing with impairedfertility… you took genetic risks.


MELANIE: That’s why I insisted on screening the embryosbefore transfer... that’s why I went through an unprecedented second battery ofgenetic tests by the end of the first trimester.


FELIX: Well... you didn’t need them with me. How can anyoneknow whether those tests were enough?


MELANIE: With genetics, enough is never enough... not evennow… with the entire human genome deciphered. But that radiation accident was20 years ago… long enough for substantial recovery—


FELIX: Depending on the radiation dose.


MELANIE: Exactly! And which I checked out! (Pause). But wait a moment! Are you shedding all thisgenetic dandruff to tell me that I should gratefully accept my Ivan—the firstICSI baby in history—as yours?


FELIX: I wouldn’t quite put it that way.


MELANIE: So what way would you put it?


FELIX: Very simply. (Pause). I didn’t come to talk about parental rights... that boy is yourchild.


MELANIE (Sarcastic):How gracious of you. So what are you talking about?


FELIX: I want to know who belongs to whom—


MELANIE: You just admitted Ivan belonged to me... and to Vitaly.


FELIX: Damn it! Just... let... me... finish! I’m talkingabout paternity, about genetic information. Whose complement of genes does Ivanhave? Only then will you know what Vitaly’s role was... if any. (Pause). Every reasonable scientist would take thatposition.


MELANIE: I would never have performed that ICSI experimenton my own eggs if it hadn’t been for Vitaly.


FELIX: This is bigger than romance, Melanie. I’m looking atthis as the co-author of the ICSI manuscript.


MELANIE: Whereas I’m looking at it as the mother of a livingchild! If I were sure that my son came from your ICSI injection….




MELANIE: I couldn’t cope with that prospect… not while Ivanis still a baby.


FELIX: That’s your problem... and it has nothing to do withscience. I came to request simple DNA analysis of the boy and the two putativefathers.


MELANIE: Putative? (Disgusted)... Putative? The word alone makes me want to puke.


FELIX: You can forget about that word the moment the DNAcomparison is completed.


(Vitaly enters, a teddy bear orother toy in his hand. He stops by

the door, initially unnoticed byMelanie and Felix who continue arguing).


MELANIE: And I should approach Vitaly with such a request?What makes you think you’ve even got the right to raise such a question?


FELIX: Shouldn’t he know that there were sperm from two men?Don’t you think he’d want to know whether Ivan is his real son?


MELANIE: Vitaly knows what you did. But asking him toparticipate in DNA analysis is something completely different. (Pause). Out of the question!


            Vitalycloses the door, startling both Melanie and Felix.


VITALY (Sardonic):What’s the fired midwife doing here? (Points to microscope). At the scene of the crime.


But what’s the argument about?


MELANIE: Wait! Felix was about to leave. Let’s talk about italone.


FELIX: I’m not leaving. Not until he hears my side of thestory.


VITALY: What’s he talking about?


FELIX: Ivan’s paternity.


MELANIE: Felix! Get out!


VITALY (Waves away MELANIE): That’s OK… let him finish. What sort of paternity are you talkingabout?


FELIX: The only paternity that counts.


VITALY: Ivan has a father....


MELANIE: And the law recognizes Vitaly as such.


FELIX: And who gave you that legal advice?


MELANIE: We don’t need legal advice. We got married before Ivanwas born.


FELIX (Taken aback):I didn’t hear about your marriage. (Turns sarcastic). It’s the first recorded failure of the labgrapevine.


MELANIE: The name on his birth certificate is Ivan Slavsky.


FELIX: You’re talking about the name on a birth certificate.I’m talking about the pattern of a DNA gel.


VITALY: That’s all there is to paternity? DNA patterns?


FELIX: As far as this ICSI conception is concerned... yes. (Turnsto Melanie). That first ICSI baby inhistory… your son—


VITALY: You mean our son—


FELIX: I beg to differ…. That still has to be established.Whoever the parents, Ivan will be followed up... all through his life. Melanieknows that’s a fact.… Once the ICSI paper has appeared, the genie is out of thebottle. (Pause). What if something turnsout wrong with Ivan? Suppose he turns out to be infertile? Is that a geneticproblem or is it the ICSI procedure? We can’t tell without DNA paternity testing?You seem to forget that before ICSI, men couldn’t inherit infertility… it wasuninheritable!


MELANIE: Now it has become transmittable… because ofICSI!


FELIX (Angry): Didn’tyou hear what I asked? If Ivan should prove to be infertile—


MELANIE: He can use ICSI. Like father, like son.


FELIX: But that’s a prescription for a treatment… not anexplanation for the cause!


MELANIE: As you know better than anyone else… (sarcastic)… the moment our paper comes out, there’ll be a lineof infertile men around the block of every fertility clinic clamoring to becomeICSI fathers. I trust that none of them will have the misfortune of having theICSI injection conducted by you… so there won’t be any doubt about geneticfatherhood. By the time the question of possible infertility in the offspringcan be raised… a couple of decades later… there will be thousands of cases. Thestatisticians will have a field day without worrying about Ivan, unless (pause) ours was the first and last ICSIfertilization. Surely you don’t believe that?


VITALY (Dismissive, addresses Felix): You and your ICSI! (Pause). Let me ask you a very simple question: suppose weperformed DNA analysis and you were shown to be the provider of that famoussingle ICSI sperm.




VITALY: Would you acknowledge Ivan openly as your son? Wouldyou support him? (Quickly raises his hand).No! I withdraw that question. What I’m asking is... would you have Ivan livewith you? (Throws teddy bear at him).


MELANIE (Outraged): VITALY!What are you asking?


VITALY (Waves her away, addresses FELIX): Well?


FELIX: No... I wouldn’t go that far.


(Bends down to pick up teddybear from the floor and places it carefully on

the table next to the microscope)


VITALY (Dismissive, to Melanie): You see? Why argue? Paternity isn’t just the provision of a singlesperm. It’s also a human relationship… between father and son. All the manwants is a DNA gel. Give it to him. He isn’t interested in the baby.


MELANIE: VITALY! I’m not arguing about a gel… I am talkingabout acquiring knowledge that I do not need right now as a scientist or as amother.


FELIX: So, you’re prepared to ignore the circumstances ofhis conception?


MELANIE: Yes…yes! That’s a question that should only concernIvan… when he’s grown up. We’ll take tissue samples...


FELIX: When?


MELANIE: Soon enough. But only Ivan’s and Vitaly’s... andhave an independent lab perform the DNA analyses. No one will see theresults... no one but Ivan.


FELIX: And if they don’t match?


VITALY: What’s the difference? I’m Ivan’s father. Whetherhis father is also the sperm donor and how important that is to him arequestions that will only occur to him when he learns the facts.


FELIX: And when is that supposed to happen?


MELANIE: That’s for his parents to decide.






Scene 11. (Year 2014).



(Holds white envelope in onehand and a larger, brown manila envelope in the other)


What a birthday present! We were about to leave the partywhen they gave me these envelopes. Both my parents seemed nervous, whichsurprised me, because they’re not the nervous type. The situation sure turnedserious when we got home. That’s when my mom asked me to open this letter.

            (Liftswhite envelope, which is torn open)

“I wrote it almost thirteen years ago,” she said. “I wouldhave kept it for another five or six before showing it to you. I think you aretoo young for this.”

            (Againlifts envelope)

Apparently, it was my father who convinced her otherwise. “Ithink you’re man enough to read what’s in the letter,” he said. And then hehanded me this.

            (Liftsbrown manila envelope in other hand)

He said it contained two samples… DNA samples… and theresults of their comparison. Results that no one had seen as yet… although thetests were run at mom’s insistence when I was still a baby.


I’ve never seen my father cry, but this time I saw tears inhis eyes when he said, “Take your time, we’ll wait for you upstairs.” And thenthey left me with this… my birthday gift.

            (Pointsto both envelopes)

I bet they’re worried. I’ve been here for at least half anhour… but I can’t go up yet. Mom was wrong: Thirteen is not too young to getthis letter. (Pause). I’ve known foryears that people call her, “the Mother of ICSI.” There must be tens ofthousands of ICSI babies all over the world—kids that would never have beenborn if it were not for her work. I guess no one will ever know that I’m numerouno, because it says here             (Raiseswhite envelope) that they’ll never disclosemy ICSI conception unless I announce it publicly. But what about that otherman? Why did my parents think that I should know about him?


Mom says, “Some children in your situation—for instance, iftheir mothers went to a sperm bank—want to know who their biological fatherwas.” (Raises white envelope). I don’t.(Pause). My mom didn’t go to asperm bank and my situation can’t possibly be similar to anybody else’s.Furthermore, she’s convinced… that my Dad is my father. So if I open the secondenvelope and the two samples don’t match, does that mean my father stops beingmy father? I don’t want to change my father and there’s nothing I can do tochange my genes anyway….


“Take your time,” he said. (Long Pause). But I can’t wait.


(Pause, while he drops whiteenvelope and starts—perhaps with hasty clumsiness because of Scotch Tapeseal—to open the brown manila envelope)


Not if I want to be a man.


                                                                                             (Takesout two longish X-ray strips, containing DNA patterns. First looks at one, thenthe other, then tries to line them up next to each other; finally superimposesone on top of the other and then—with back against the audience—holds it upagainst the light. As lights starts dimming, IVAN turns so that his face isvisible through the X-ray film, which he then lowers slowly, showing a mixtureof expressions: relief, shock, puzzlement… then BLACKOUT).



END OF Part 1 ofScene 11


Alternative ending


Twoalternative endings have been created for this play, which, ideally, shouldboth be performed. A few seconds after the above Blackout, the lights shine onIvan, who steps forward to the edge of the stage and addresses the audience:


IVAN: Supposehowever that both embryos implanted in my mother’s uterus, rather than justone. Well… let’s see what might have happened then.


BLACKOUT (for short while) and then LIGHTS UP



Alternative Scene 11.(Year 2015). Same room as in first ending, but now with a table containingremnants of a birthday party, including some dishes and cutlery, notably somespoons. (IVAN and YURY face each other, IVAN holding a torn open white envelopein one hand and a larger, brown sealed manila envelope in the other).


YURY: That isn’t fair. It was for both of us! It isn’t justyour 14th birthday.


IVAN: I am the older.


YURY (Dismissive):Sure… sure. By about two minutes. Now let me see it. (Reaches for theletter).


IVAN (Hides letter behind his back): I don’t think you want to read this… at least notyet.


YURY: Just give me the letter.


IVAN: Wait. Do you know what this (waves letter beforehiding it again) is all about?


YURY: Give me the letter!


IVAN: Did you see how nervous Mom was?


YURY: Yeah.


IVAN: And then Dad. He had tears in his eyes.


YURY: I saw that. But he also told us that we’re both oldenough to read what’s in the letter. So show it to me. (Tries to grab it,but Ivan resists).


IVAN: Wait! He also told us to take our time.


YURY (Angry and nervous).Give me the letter! It’s ours… not just yours.


IVAN: Do you know what DNA tests are good for?


YURY: What’s that got to do with the letter?


IVAN: Do you?


YURY: Wise guy! You think you’re the only one who’s hadbiology? Just because you want to become a doctor and I don’t?


IVAN: Answer my question.


YURY: They’re like fingerprints… only better. That’s howthey catch rapists.


IVAN: Or show how someone is not one.


YURY: Okay. (Tries to snatch the letter away). Nowgive it to me!


IVAN: What about ICSI?


YURY (Stops in his tracks): You mean Mom’s work?


IVAN: Yeah. Remember the first time we heard it?


YURY: Overheard it. She was on the phone.


IVAN: And heard that I was numero uno.


YURY: That’s your story. What I heard her say was, “Ivan andYury are numero uno.”


IVAN: How can there be two numero unos?


YURY: Because we are twins.


IVAN: But not identical ones.


YURY: So what?


IVAN: Meaning that we didn’t come from one ICSI injection…but two.


YURY: I know that. But we’re still twins.


IVAN: Are we?


YURY: Of course we are! Two eggs of Mom’s were injected—


IVAN: But not with the same sperm.


YURY: Dope! Of course not… you need a separate sperm foreach egg. And you want to become a doctor? You better take some more biology.


IVAN: Yury… here. (Suddenly hands over letter). Read this.


(Yury grabs letter, sits down,and starts reading. In the meanwhile, IVAN starts playing with the brown manilaenvelope, testing how it is sealed, holding it up to the light to see whetherhe can see through the envelope, etc. with occasional side glances at hisbrother until Yury has finished reading. He sits shocked, staring straightahead but not at his brother).


YURY (Clearly shaken):Did you know about that other man?


IVAN: Yeah.


YURY: How come?


IVAN: I once heard Mom talk about him to Dad.


YURY: Why didn’t you tell me?


IVAN: Because… (falls silent)


YURY: Because of what? Tell me, Ivan!


IVAN: Because… (hesitates)… because I think he’s your dad.


YURY: What do you mean, he’s my dad. Have you everseen him?


IVAN: No. But it says here (points to letter) that one of us has to be his son.


YURY: So why couldn’t it be you?


IVAN: Because I look more like Dad… especially my nose.


YURY (Touches his own nose): What’s wrong with my nose?


IVAN: It’s more crooked.


YURY: No, it’s not.


IVAN: Just take a look.


YURY (Looks around):There’s no mirror here.


IVAN (After looking around, walks to table, picks up aspoon and hands it to his brother): Heretake a look in the spoon.


YURY (Grabs spoon and examines himself): I can’t see anything.


IVAN: Lick it clean and then look.


YURY (After licking spoon and examining his nose): It doesn’t look crooked.


IVAN: Try a bigger one.

            (Goesback to table and picks a big serving spoon)



YURY (Grabs spoon and throws it on the floor): My nose isn’t crooked… and my Dad is my dad.


            Longpause while the two boys look at each other.


IVAN (Picks up brown manila envelope): We’ll know soon enough.


YURY: You’re going to open it?


IVAN: I don’t know. What do you think?


YURY: I’m scared.


IVAN: You know what that means? (Points to manilaenvelope). We aren’t twins… we’re onlyhalf-brothers.


YURY: Wait a moment! If we don’t open it, won’t each of usstill think that Dad is our dad?


IVAN: Sure.


YURY: Then we’re still twins.


IVAN: Go tell this to your biology teacher.




IVAN: Well?


YURY: What?


IVAN: Should we open it?




IVAN: Forget about the other man?


YURY: Yes.


IVAN: I can’t.


YURY: Even if your nose is straighter?


IVAN: I was just kidding, Yury. But I’ve just got to know.


YURY: I don’t want to know. Do you understand? I don’t… Idon’t.




YURY (Reads from letter):Mom says here, “We’ll never disclose your ICSI conception unless one of youannounces it publicly.”


IVAN: But what about that other man? Why did they think thatwe should know about him?


YURY (Continues reading from letter): “Some children in your situation—for instance, iftheir mothers went to a sperm bank—want to know who their biological fatherwas.” (Looks up at Ivan). Idon’t.


IVAN: I guess we’re different. I must know.


YURY (Angrily): Why?If we open the second envelope and my DNA sample doesn’t match with Dad’s, doesthat mean my father stops being my father? I don’t want to change my father andthere’s nothing I can do to change my genes anyway….


IVAN: I can’t wait.


(Starts tearing open theenvelope, but Yury pounces on him and they start fighting. Yury manages to gethold of the envelope, runs to corner of the room and tears it to pieces. For amoment they stare at each other, exhausted. Suddenly, Yury starts crying,eventually almost hysterically. Ivan walks over to his brother and embraceshim. They hug each other).


IVAN: Take it easy, Yury. I’ll always be your brother.Nobody can take that away.





Epilogue: Spotlight focuses on VITALY, dressed asPhoebus Apollo (Roman sun god) whose face may be hidden by a mask. [Vitaly’swords are excerpted and partially paraphrased from Ovid's METAMORPHOSES,(transl. by D.E. Hill, Aris & Phillips, Ltd., Warminster, Wilts., 1985)Book 1, lines 751 - 775 except for the last stanza, which comes from Book II,lines 36 -43 & 90 -98.]




Once, Phaeton’s brother, past endurance, said:
"You are insane to trust your mother wholly,
you have a false and inflated notion of your parentage.”

Phaeton blushed, his shame suppressing his anger,
he brought his brother's insults to his mother:

"This taunt shames us both
because it could be said and not refuted.

Give me a token of my origin."

It is uncertain whether Phaeton's mother was moved more
by his prayers or her anger at the spoken accusation.
"It would not be a great task for you to know the lineage of your father.
If your spirit moves you, go question him face to face."
Upon such words from his mother, Phaeton at once
sprang up in joy and set forth to seek his father.

"Father," he said, "if you let me use that word,
give me proofs of my birth and take away this confusion from my mind."
His father told him to approach closer.
"Look, gaze into my face. You will not be rebuffed.

I give sure proofs by my fear,
my fatherly alarm proves my fatherhood.

But it's punishment you ask for, Phaeton, not a favor."




CARL DJERASSI, novelist, playwright and professorof chemistry emeritus at Stanford University, is one of the few Americanscientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for thefirst synthesis of an oral contraceptive) and the National Medal of Technology(for promoting new approaches to insect control). He has published shortstories, poetry (The Clock runsbackward) and fivenovels (Cantor’s Dilemma; The Bourbaki Gambit; Marx, deceased;Menachem’s Seed; NO)—that illustrate as“science-in-fiction” the human side of science and the personal conflicts facedby scientists—as well as an autobiography (The Pill, Pygmy Chimpsand Degas’ Horse) and a memoir (THISMAN’S PILL: Reflections on the 50th birthday of the Pill).


During the past eight years he has focused onplay-writing, initially of “science-in-theatre” plays. The first, AN IMMACULATE MISCONCEPTION,premiered at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was subsequently staged inLondon (New End Theatre in 1999 and Bridewell Theatre in 2002), San Francisco(Eureka), New York (Primary Stages), Vienna (Jugendstiltheater), Cologne (Theater am Tanzbrunnen), Munich (Deutsches Museum),Berlin (Gorki Theater group), Sundsvall (Teater Västernorrland), Stockholm(Dramaten), Sofia (Satire Theatre), Geneva (Theatre du Grütli), Tokyo (BunkyoCivic Hall Theatre), Seoul, Los Angeles (L.A. Theatre Works), Lisbon (Teatro daTrindade), Singapore (Singapore Repertory Theatre) and Detroit (HilberryTheatre).The play has been translated into 11 languages and also published inbook form in English, German, Spanish and Swedish. It was broadcast by BBCWorld Service in 2000 as “play of the week” and by the West German (WDR) andSwedish Radio in 2001 and NPR in the USA in 2004.


His second play, OXYGEN,co-authored with Roald Hoffmann, premiered in April 2001 at the San DiegoRepertory Theatre, at the Mainfranken Theater in Würzburg in Sept. 2001 throughApril 2002 (as well as in Munich, Leverkusen and Halle), at the RiversideStudios in London in Nov. 2001, and subsequently in New Zealand (Circa Theatre,Wellington), Korea (Pohang and Seoul), Tokyo (Setagaya Tram Theatre), Toronto,Madison, WI, Columbus,OH, Ottawa, Bologna (Italy), Bulgaria (Sofia, SatireTheatre) as well as many other German and American venues. Productions inPortugal (Porto, Seiva Trupe) and Glasgow are scheduled for 2005. Both the BBCand the WDR broadcast the play in Dec. 2001 around the centenary of the NobelPrize—one of that play’s main themes. It has so far been translated into 10languages and has already appeared in book form in English, German, Spanish,Italian, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean.


His third play, CALCULUS,dealing with the infamous Newton-Leibniz priority struggle, has alreadyappeared in book form in English and German, with Italian to follow in 2005.Staged rehearsed readings were held in Berkeley (Aurora Theatre), London (RoyalInstitution), Vienna (Museum Quartier), Munich (Deutsches Museum), Berlin(Brandenburg Academy), Dresden (Semper Oper) and Oxford (Oxford Playhouse). Afull production opened in San Francisco (Performing Arts Library & Museum)in April 2003, with the London premiere following in the New End Theatre inJuly 2004 and productions in 2005 in Dublin (Trinity College) and Cambridge(ADC Theatre). A musical version (composed by Werner Schulze and directed byIsabella Gregor) opened in the Zurich Opera Studiobühne in May 2005. His first“non-scientific” play, “EGO,”premiered at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe; its themes are furtherexplored in “THREE ON A COUCH,” which opened in London (King’s Head Theatre) inMarch 2004. A German translation has already appeared in book form and has beenbroadcast by the WDR in June 2004; its Austrian theatrical premiere isscheduled for October 2005 and a major German tour (Landgraf) for early 2006.The London premiere of his fifth play (“PHALLACY”) with a science vs. art theme occurred in April2005 at the New End Theatre and then transferred to the King’s Head Theatre inMay. The West German Radio (WDR) will broadcast a German translation in early2006.


In addition, he has started on a series of “pedagogicwordplays” to be used in schools in lieu of lectures. The first, “ICSI-Sexin an Age of Mechanical Reproduction”has been published in English, German, Chinese and Italian and performed inschools in the USA, Germany, Austria and Italy. The second, “NO,” written with Pierre Laszlo was published in2003 in English, German and French.


Djerassi is the founder ofthe Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which providesresidencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature,choreography and performing arts, and music. Nearly 1500 artists have passedthrough that program since its inception in 1982. Djerassi and his wife, thebiographer Diane Middlebrook, live in San Francisco and London.

(There is a Website about Carl Djerassi’s writing at http://www.djerassi.com)