Obie-winning playwright Kirsten Greenidge’s “Milk Like Sugar” is getting a modern update. The Huntington Theatre Company's production inspired by the small town-shocking 2008 Gloucester High School “pregnancy pact” will take the stage at the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA on Friday, Jan. 29 — with a couple of tweaks.
Greenidge’s play debuted five years ago — closing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater in November 2011 — and received a contemporary makeover from the playwright herself before returning to the stage. Mindful of the ways teenagers and the technology surrounding them have changed, Greenidge, who also currently teaches theater at BU, made small changes to the script while sitting in the rehearsal room, though the story’s center remains relevantly the same.
“When I wrote the play, teenagers related differently to cell phones than they do now,” she says. “It was still a big thing if you had one as a younger person. Like slider phones were mentioned, but now it’s updated to be even more of a joke than it was before.”
“Milk Like Sugar” focuses on a group of high schools friends who have entreated a secret pact of their own, and the superficial and often misguided expectations of motherhood, and the subsequent consequences that follow. The events (and heavy news coverage) surrounding the eighteen pregnant students at Gloucester High School in 2008 — and their pact that was later revealed to be a false — brought out the curiosity in Greenidge. She says she was inspired by what the thought process of a young woman who actually made the decision to enter a commitment to birth and co-raise a child would be.
“It’s was less of a detective story,” she explains. “It was more about how could someone make this decision, had [the Gloucester ‘pregnancy pact’] been true.”
While the play’s socioeconomic overtones are ever-apparent, the decision to keep the productions’ setting vague is a deliberate one. It’s not Gloucester, but it’s not Boston either.
“I want people [who see the play] not to say, ‘Those can’t be our kids, we don’t know anyone like that,’” Greenidge says. “And while the girls are specific in some way, I don’t want someone to say, ‘That couldn’t be me. I can’t relate to that.’”
The concept is also meant to transcend age. The pact is decided at a sixteenth birthday, but the the concept of having a child to fulfill lacking life avenues isn’t age-restrictive.
“We live in a culture where you can have wish lists on Amazon and Babies-R-Us without having a baby or getting married or having a shower,” she notes. “[Motherhood] can become less about the fear of having a connection with a person or the life you want, but more about getting the accoutrements or things that [having a baby] involves. It’s not an anomaly just for those girls.”
"Milk Like Sugar" plays at Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA (527 Tremont Street, Boston) Jan. 29 to Feb. 27. Tickets at HuntingtonTheatre.org.