‘Lungs’: Living, loving, making good choices

Liz hayes and Noel Nacer in "Lungs."  Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

Liz Hayes and Noel Nacer in “Lungs.” Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

WATERTOWN — During our lifetimes we will make many, many decisions which will have profound and long-lasting effects.

We will agonize over those decisions, and how they affect us, and we may take it a step further and wonder how they will affect our families, friends, neighbors, and our global neighbors.We might be just like the couple in Duncan Macmillan’s new comedy, “Lungs,” now at the Black Box Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, a funny, touching, fast-paced 85 minutes.

The man (Noel Nacer) and the woman (Liz Hayes) are in a committed relationship but the woman becomes semi-hysterical when the man mentions the “B” word — as in baby — during a visit to an Ikea store.

The mere suggestion sparks a profane rant about this “not being the right time and place” for such a conversation. Her fear, perhaps, that there may never be a right time and place for it.

The couple finds many verbal land mines lurking ahead, such whether the decision to have a child is selfish, whether adoption is the answer, etc. It eventually evolves overtaxing scarce resources on an overburdened planet and if you really cared about the planet, you probably wouldn’t want to the add to the population — not with the huge carbon footprint another human leaves. In fact, if you were really caring you’d probably kill yourself.

Will their cares, concerns and anxieties prevent them from living a full life?

Macmillan moves the action quickly forward via rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness, back-and-forth banter. Choices have to be made — he abandons his itinerant career as a musician to join the corporate world, while she continues to pursue her doctorate.

When push comes to shove — and a baby might be in the offing — there are more life decisions to make. Will she quit smoking? Is marriage necessary for a couple planning to have children?

They live, they love, they evolve and change, they agonize and they argue, and they ponder the “big questions” of how to be a good person, have a good influence on the planet, and still live a good life.

In fact, much of the debate centers around the question of whether they really are good people, or in their smugness they have made assumptions, because they are educated and concerned, that aren’t necessarily correct.

You’ll be holding on for dear life as they laugh, love, age, undergo trouble and turmoil and make some bad choices. And somehow survive.

This piece theatrically is not for the faint of heart, with the non-stop dialogue and quicksilver changes, but the charms and skills of the two principals allow the efforts of the playwright to fully flower.

Director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary (New Rep’s “Collected Stories” and “DollHouse”) keeps Hayes and Nacer focused and moving forward, and theater-goers reap a rich reward.

What I took away from “Lungs” was this: We do the best we can in life, and that thoughtful decisions, made with love and the concern for the other person, are almost always right.

The New Repertory Theatre production of Duncan Macmillan’s “Lungs.” Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. At the Black Box Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts through March 10. http://www.newrep.org

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