Just don’t lie down and no child will come.
It’s Ottawa in the 1920s, pre-legalized birth control. Sophie, a young working-class girl, falls madly in love with and marries a stable-hand named Jonny. After two difficult childbirths, doctors tell Sophie she shouldn’t have any more children, but don’t tell her how to prevent it. When Sophie inevitably becomes pregnant again, she faces a grim dilemma.
In an unflinching look at love, sex, and fertility, and inspired by real stories of mothers during the Canadian birth-control movement of the early twentieth century, one of Canada’s most celebrated playwrights vividly recreates a couple’s struggles with reproduction.
Hannah Moscovitch is an internationally acclaimed playwright, TV writer, and librettist. She has been honoured with numerous accolades, including multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards and Toronto Theatre Critics Awards, the Fringe First and Herald Angels Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Trillium Book Award, the Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize administered by Yale. She has also been nominated for multiple Drama Desk Awards, the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and twice for the Siminovitch Prize. Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, her music-theatre hybrid (co-created with Christian Barry and Ben Caplan), continues to tour internationally. Hannah’s newest play, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, premiered in Toronto in 2020. She splits her time between Halifax and Toronto.
There’s a storm, the sound of rain.
Jonny and Sophie are kissing. Then as the sexuality escalates, Sophie disentangles herself, pushes Jonny gently away from her. Beat of them still, then:
Jonny: Where’s the baby?
Sophie: In his cot — I’m sorry, Jonny —
Jonny: No, no?
Sophie: The doctor said . . . not to.
Then, scuffing the floor:
Jonny: The floor’s turned to mud.
It’ll give you pain?
Sophie: It might, but that’s not . . .
Jonny: For how long?
Sophie: I think the doctor meant a while.
Jonny: A month?
Sophie: He told me I had insides quite exhausted and he dearly hoped I didn’t have any more children.
He said I should not have more children, / Jonny, so . . .
Jonny: I — I — yes.
Beat. Jonny realizes.
Sophie: We have the two?
Jonny: No more . . . ? No more children . . . ? No more . . . ? No more?
Sophie: That’s what he said.
Jonny: Did you ask him . . . what that meant, how to . . . ?
Sophie: I said, “How do I prevent it?” He didn’t answer, only said it would weaken my health, and could . . . cost my life.
Jonny: He did?
Sophie: Yes, and a child would get no nourishment from my womb, he said.
I’ll ask him again. I was nervous to . . . say what I wanted to: that it would be hard not to — to have no . . .
I’m sorry, Jonny — ?
Jonny: No, no. We have the two.
Jonny nods to himself and gets up.
Sophie turns back to the audience.
“Brace yourself for a heart-wrenching experience that will provoke tears and laughter. ”
“By giving the women of the 1920s a voice, Moscovitch has given many contemporary women a voice as well. What a Young Wife Ought to Know is more than a compelling history lesson, it is an opportunity to contemplate the state of sexual health and freedom in our society today… 3 ? stars (out of 4)”
“The play adds to necessary, current conversations around representation of women, gender inequity and female sexuality. ”