Presented by Company One
Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel
Directed by Steven Bogart
Dramaturgy by Jessie Baxter
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) For as long as there have been uteruses, there have been abortions. For almost as long as there have been abortions, there have been people desiring to control the contents of a uterus that isn’t theirs. Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves to know the capability of their body. Everyone with a uterus deserves to choose what is best for that uterus whether that means ending or beginning a pregnancy. A uterus shouldn’t be political. It is privately owned. No one gets to make decisions about my body but me. I support Planned Parenthood because I believe that everyone else deserves that freedom too.
Company One’s production of Dry Land is about the consequences of abstinence only education, institutionalized ignorance, and socialized body shaming. Amy (Stephanie Recio) is a pregnant teenager. She doesn’t give us any specifics but it’s implied that she had consensual sex with a boy. Unfortunately, Amy lives in Florida. This means a safe, regulated surgical abortion is impossible for her to acquire without a parent’s input because Florida believes a teenager 16 or older is old enough to engage in sexual congress with someone up to seven years their senior but not to make their own decisions regarding the consequences of that sexual activity*. Instead, Amy has engaged Ester (Eva Hughes) to be her confidante in self-administering an at-home abortion. They are acquaintances through the high school swim team.
Dry Land is graphic. A medicinal abortion is depicted onstage by the actors. Physical violence with the intent to induce a miscarriage is discussed and enacted. Yet these scenes are not nearly as graphic as the lengths women have historically gone to. In particular, the abortion scene, like so much violence in theatre, is a difficult-to-watch metaphor intended to induce thought. It is deeply effective. Spiegel has written a depressingly powerful play. Hughes and Recio deliver a gripping, soul-bruising abortion scene. They communicate excellently with each other and us during the entire production but they are most fervent during the abortion.
The actions on stage are intended to be disgusting and depressing. They should be. It is disgusting that any person with a uterus can’t receive the healthcare they need in every state in the US. It is depressing that young women know so little about their reproductive systems because the US legislature thinks comprehensive Sex Ed. is icky. Scenes like this must make a lasting impression on their audience. It is no longer be acceptable to pretend that teenage abortions don’t exist because we don’t discuss them…
The set by Courtney Nelson and lighting design by Daisy Long creates an environment that looks straight out of a 1980’s horror flick… Or an average American locker room. I don’t know how they managed but the set even smells like a locker room. One expects to see a pile of wet towels decaying in the corner.
This production isn’t enjoyable to watch but it is a very good. Perhaps one of the year’s best: the cast has an excellent rapport that clearly engages great trust in their crew and each other; the set’s effectiveness is mighty creepy; the writing is brilliant and true. There’s even an adorkable romance for the saps out there (me). What Dry Land is not, is easy to swallow. Conservatives and prudes, you have been warned.
*Despite this, FL teenagers are considered responsible enough to raise a baby. The logic is not strong in Florida.