B y J a n a R i v e r a
IN A WORKING-class neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island, a young woman named Keely is handcuffed to the metal bedpost of a single bed. Depressing sparseness surrounds her--a tiny refrigerator, a clanging, tinny supply closet, threadbare carpet and a couple of hard-back chairs. The basement room she occupies is dank and stuffy. There are no windows, just a single security door with peephole and alarm system. Du, an arthritic woman, fusses about Keely offering food and giving sponge baths.
Keely's captors have saved her. They've kept her from committing a heinous murder. They've snatched her from an abortion clinic, drugged her and brought her here to live, chained to a bedpost, to nurture her unborn child for the next seven months.
What's more, her captors--a preacher and his followers--are quite sure she'll be grateful for their help once they've explained things. Because surely Keely does not realize what she's doing. Once they explain, she'll be grateful for the opportunity to raise this child on the meager salary she makes as a waitress, or to carry it for nine months before giving it away to strangers. She'll be grateful she did not abort that which was conceived in a rape by her estranged husband. She simply needs some assistance to understand this. The Christian group's unrealistic expectations of Keely reach a crux when they march her husband into the room, assuming he need only prove his acceptance of Christ for her to forgive the rape and violence he's heaped upon her.
In the beginning, Du is absolutely earnest and sincere in her belief that she's not only saved the life of an innocent child, she's saved Keely from the fate that awaits all women who have abortions--they "slit their wrists or swallow lye."
The rhetoric spewed from the mouths of the Christian right in Jane Martin's play, Keely and Du, now playing at Damesrocket Theater, enrages those who believe every woman is capable of making a decision on her own. But the audacity of one human being to take charge of another human being's life in the name of the Lord is more than enraging, it's frightening.
Martin's play, produced by Damesrocket Theater Company, stops short of advocating choice. In fact, by the end of the play, we're not sure of the playwright's views on abortion. She seems to have bought into the anti-choice view that no woman can be emotionally sound once she's had an abortion--that she'll break into tears at the mere mention or sight of a baby. She also plays into the rape rationale for an abortion, instead of presenting us with a woman who has simply made a choice.
On the other hand, Martin has so accurately written the fanaticism of the sanctimonious preacher that he seems almost laughable--and would be if he wasn't so real and scary.
The opposing views converge in the character of Du, who throughout the play struggles with her fervent belief that abortion equals murder and her realization that with the capture and control of Keely, she's fiddling with the free will God gave to all.
Damesrocket Theater Company's first production is helped by some noteworthy performances. Susan Chalker exceptionally portrays Du, a compassionate woman struggling to understand and do the right thing, and Dwayne Palmer delivers the role of Walter (the preacher) with a righteous tone that makes you cringe, always barely masking an undeniable anger lurking just below the surface.
Damesrocket cofounder Holly Pinnell offers a somewhat shaky and uneven performance as Keely, however, with a few too many flubbed lines and an inability in this instance to portray most emotions beyond anger. Unfortunately, this weakness leaves the relationship between Keely and Du undeveloped, although we know the playwright intended otherwise.
Damesrocket's other cofounder, Caroline Reed, directed Keely and Du, the company's first production. Damesrocket Theater Company, Tucson's newest theater group, plans to produce plays dealing with women's views, history, relationships and community.
Damesrocket Theater Company's production of Keely and Du continues with performances at 8 p.m. through October 21 at The Temple Of Music And Art Cabaret Theatre, 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $8 at the door. For information call 743-3650.
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