“Don’t give me the law, give me the truth.”
Roxy (Kayla Carter) walks through the audience and cries this out, interrupting another debate on abortion between Sarah Weddington and Norma McCorvey. The argument jumps from religious interpretations, to law technicalities, to the beliefs on a woman’s voice. Words are becoming heated, when Roxy, a woman in possible need of an abortion comes to the stage. No longer are Norma and Sarah fighting over the hypothetical – they are staring into the eyes of a desperate woman whose entire life can change depending on her choice.
Most of us know of Roe v. Wade, and some may know more of the details than others. Playwright Lisa Loomer invites her audience into the history that led to the famous court case – and the many struggles it faced in the years following. As with many battle stories, the victors determine the truth. Loomer offers a deep dive into how complex the definition of truth can be for such a controversial issue.
Goodman Theatre presents Chicago Premiere of Roe
The play's exploration of events surrounding Roe v. Wade, begins with the meeting in a pizza parlor between the lawyer who would spearhead the case, Sarah Weddington (Christina Hall), her co-counsel Linda Coffee (Meg Warner), and Norma McCorvey (Kate Middleton) – the woman who would become Jane Roe, the plaintiff of the case. Loomer then takes the audience through the next forty years, bringing to light the many attempts to build obstacles into and around the law. We catch a glimpse into restrictions including the timing of the abortion in a woman’s pregnancy, the proximity an abortion clinic must share with a hospital, and the organizations that popped up to fight a woman’s right to choose, such as Operation Rescue.
Masterfully directed by Vanessa Stalling, in this writer's view, Roe is fast-paced and personal. While the play covers an important and controversial topic that has certainly faced hardship, the production is also often times highly comedic - particularly when actors break the fourth wall to offer present-day commentary on the events unfolding. The ending result is a roller coaster of a ride that kept this writer on the edge of her seat, fascinated and curious to see what event would happen next.
Scenic Designer Collette Pollard transforms the Goodman’s Albert Theatre into the Supreme Court, capturing its grandeur – complete with white columns that line either end of the stage. This re-creation of the Supreme Court chambers is completed with a row of nine tall seats behind a large wooden stand.
As the play begins and we meet Sarah and Norma. Wooden stands are in the background with nine actors dressed in the Justice Robes. As the story continues, actors eventually leave those posts to fill other roles, and even the stands move out to make room for other set pieces. The entire play takes place within the confines of the grand, columned room. Individuals on both sides of the controversy are constantly observing, looking for new arguments to bring back into the room where it all began. Ensemble members (Jazmín Corona and Eliza Stoughton) are often in the wings, watching the action unfold. In this way, Stalling's direction--brilliant, in this writer's view-- brings to life the reality that the debates are far from over.
The controversial story, in many ways, becomes larger than life. As the story unfolds though, we learn even more through windows into personal relationships and struggles.
One of the most heartbreaking elements of the play, for this writer, is watching Norma McCorvey become lost in the debates and issues around the case. She began as a woman who wanted an abortion. While she became an important part of Sarah Weddington’s case, we also see the aftermath, as Norma struggles to build a life for herself. She becomes lost in all of the chaos.
While Connie begins as a hopeful support system for Norma, we see how every obstacle that comes with being Jane Roe threatens to break the relationship. The script, direction and moving performances by Diaz and Middleton capture the inescapable connection between the personal and the political – every step we take towards progress is bound to impact someone in ways we never could have imagined.
A brilliant cast and poignant production make Roe a deeply impactful piece from start to finish. Especially as we approach the 2020 elections, Lisa Loomer brings to light a detailed history that this writer certainly feels should be remembered.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Joining Christina Hall as Sarah Weddington and Kate Middleton as Norma McCorvey are Kayla Carter (Roxy), Jazmín Corona (Ensemble), Julia Dale (Melissa/Emily), Stephanie Diaz (Ofelia/Connie), Kirsten Fitzgerald (Molly/Mary/Ensemble), Raymond Fox (McCluskey/Ensemble), Meighan Gerachis (Ensemble), Maura Kidwell (Helen/Ronda/Ensemble), Ryan Kitley (Flip/Ensemble), John Lister (Justice Blackmun/Ensemble), Eliza Stoughton (Ensemble), Jessica Dean Turner (Barbara/Aileen/Ensemble) and Meg Warner (Judy/Linda Coffee/Ensemble).
Collette Pollard (Set Design), Jessica Pabst (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design) and Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design). Briana J. Fahey is the Production Stage Manager.
Running through February 23, 2020
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
170 N Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60601
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.