Abortion Road Trip, playwright Rachel Lynett’s comedy about reproductive rights, approaches its subject bluntly, honestly, and without any saccharine moralizing. It’s not preachy, but it does have an opinion: that a woman’s decisions about whether or not to give birth are hers alone to make.
The play centers on two sisters, Lexa (Lauren Patton) and Minnie (Dominique C. Brown), as well as a cab driver (Renae Erichsen-Teal) they’re paying to drive them from Texas to New Mexico so that Lexa can medically terminate her pregnancy. This interstate itinerary is based in reality: It’s far easier to get an abortion in New Mexico than Texas, and a good portion of the abortions performed in New Mexico involve women from out-of-state.
During their trip, intermittent flashbacks reveal details, sometimes shocking ones, about each woman’s past. Through these flashbacks, the audience learns that Lexa’s best friend, Quinn (Rachel Messbauer)—who is also Minnie’s girlfriend—doesn’t approve of Lexa’s decision to have an abortion. Minnie’s memories of conversations with her mom (Stephanie Pounds) reveal a new layer to the story, as do the taxi driver’s stories about her wife (Thais Menendez). The characters have great chemistry with each other both in the flashbacks and in the present, and the way Minnie and Lexa interact as sisters feels especially real. At one point, Minnie ribs Lexa for telling their mom Minnie was gay as soon as she came out: “You texted her while I told you.”
Although men figure into each woman’s story, and come up in the women’s conversations, these guys don’t appear as characters in the play, meaning the only people who get to say anything about abortion are women. This shouldn’t feel radical, but it does. So often, when men talk about abortion, it sounds like an abstract ethical issue, because to them, it is. For many women, the issue is deeply personal and when they talk about it, the tone of the conversation changes.
The characters in Abortion Road Trip have different, sometimes conflicting opinions about the ethics of abortion and how a woman should feel or talk about it, and the story is richer for focusing only on women’s voices. A healthy dose of humor is mixed in with the difficult situations these women encounter. The comedic relief never feels forced or inappropriate because it comes from a real understanding of women’s lived experiences. The play also acknowledges the reality that, as a University of California San Francisco study found in 2015, most women don’t regret their abortions.
Of course, whenever women talk openly about abortion, controversy follows close behind. On July 7, the play’s opening night, at least two anti-choice protesters showed up at the venue’s entrance to harass theater-goers as they filed in to see the show. After the play ended, Capitol Fringe Festival CEO and founder Julianne Brienza told the audience that the protesters had claimed they would show up every day during the show’s run.
It’s a shame that protesters tried to disrupt the show that evening, and that they apparently plan to do so again. But it would be an even bigger shame if their presence dissuaded anyone from seeing this play. It’s well-paced, well-written, and worth it.
At Logan Fringe Arts Space Trinidad Theatre through July 23.1358 Florida Ave. NE. $17. (202) 737-7230. capitalfringe.org.