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Spaghetti Code Horse Head Theatre
Ivy Castle as Milly, left, and Mischa Hutchings as Stacy in Horse Head Theatre Company's production of Spaghetti Code. Photo by Joel Luks
Spaghetti Code Horse Head Theatre
Andrew Love as Phil, left, and Drake Simpson as Tim. Photo by Joel Luks
Abby Koenig
Abby Koenig's writing approach is colloquial, mischievously lewd and comically disarming. Photo by Joel Luks

Houston playwright Abby Koenig went through what many women experience when trying to start a family: Getting pregnant wasn't easy. And such trials and tribulations roused crazy thoughts.

How far is a person willing to go to get what they want? How far is too far?

Koenig's new play, Spaghetti Code, set to premiere on Saturday night as a production presented by Horse Head Theatre Company, isn't autobiographical. The characters aren't people she knows. The circumstances aren't real. But, as portrayed in her witty text, the desperation that can emerge from feeling helpless and hopeless, in turn driving a person to scheme a masterful ruse that leads to catastrophe, is as real as it comes.

The quirky title, which is aligned with Koenig's facetious writing style, nods to a tangled mess of a computer programming problem in which diagnosing the source of a glitch is nearly impossible. One has to follow a series of labyrinthine redirects — think of a bowl of spaghetti — to arrive at the offending fault.

 Why not have her husband and her best friend mate the way nature intended?

"It looks like it should be right, all the pieces are sort of there," she says. "But then you start to dig and see that someone added a piece of code here, somebody messed with this piece of code there, and now nothing is working. That's an analogy for what goes on in the play.

"The characters think this is a really good idea, but it's a sloppy mess that ends in disaster."

Enter husband and wife Milly and Tim (played by Ivy Castle and Drake Simpson), Milly's saucy bestie, Stacy (Mischa Hutchings), and reproductive endocrinologist Phil (Andrew Love), who happens to be Milly's ex. When Milly gives up on clinical methods to treat infertility, she formulates a ridiculous plan. No doctors. No hospitals. A bed, some sheets and surely no condoms.

Why not have her husband and her best friend mate the way nature intended?

Koenig doesn't treat the subject with the kind of pious veneration one might expect for such a serious topic. Her writing approach — colloquial, mischievously lewd and comically disarming — attempts to escape the confines of storytelling traditions.

"Life is very sad but it's also very funny at the same time," Koenig says. "There's a fine line between comedy and tragedy. If you don't see humor in sadness, life is pretty miserable. That's how I try to write, to make things a little far fetched in the humor category to balance out the seriousness."

Spaghetti Code has an ambiguous, unresolved conclusion. After sketching five different ways in which the play could end, Koenig decided that realism trumped theater's desire to reach a satisfying happily-ever-after finale.

"I hope people walk away from this play talking about infertility issues," Koenig says. "A lot of women feel ashamed and embarrassed to talk about infertility. There's no reason why anyone should feel bad about themselves. Some people just need help — and that's OK."

As for her fate, Koenig is the proud mother of five-month-old twins.

"They are fabulous, and I am tired — very tired," she says.

Pictures of her children are used in the set.

___

Horse Head Theatre Company's production of Spaghetti Code runs from Saturday through July 28 at PJ's Sports Bar. Tickets are available online and are $20 general admission and $10 for students.

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