Gallaudet University: Eastman Studio Theatre
Remaining Performances (tickets available here):
Saturday, July 18 at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at 10:00 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 6:00 p.m.
They say: From the halls of Congress to pulpits and court houses around the country, there is so much noise around abortion – but it’s women’s personal stories that have been silenced. Until now. Now our stories come Out of Silence.
Molly’s Take: When I learned I would be reviewing a play that aspires to be the Vagina Monologues of abortion stories, I posted on Facebook about it to see if any of my friends were interested in tagging along with me to the performance. No one was. One response asked, “Can I still call myself a feminist if I’m just grateful that this is happening from afar?”
I suppose I couldn’t blame them. People don’t exactly have warm and fuzzy feelings about the topic of abortion, which is precisely the reason its creators say Out of Silence is needed—to show that most abortion stories have happy endings, in which women make what they feel is the right decision for themselves and feel relief afterward.
I really wanted to be able to leave the performance feeling strong and empowered, singing I’m Every Woman, or perhaps, since it’s 2015, Beyoncé’s Flawless. Instead, I left feeling underwhelmed. The irony of a theatrical piece meant to show how unremarkable and common abortion is, is that it kind of makes for boring theater. The arc of almost every one of the series of 12 vignettes that make up Out of Silence was the same: a woman is pregnant, and for some reason she is not prepared, or perhaps simply doesn’t want to raise a child. She’s just a teenager or college student, or she’s a mother of multiple children and can’t handle another one, or she’s living below the poverty line, just trying to stay on her feet. So she has an abortion.
What kept Out of Silence from being a complete dud were the five actors who each play multiple roles with depth, sincerity, and sensitivity, and manage to make each one distinct. Lilian Oben stood out by morphing from one character to the next, each time seeming as natural as any girlfriend you might be having coffee with. Bess Kaye seems to specialize in anxious teenagers and young adults and plays each one with heart and humor. Jeri Marshall’s Botticellian beauty and arresting stage presence is used to maximum effect as an expecting mother who learns that her fetus has an abnormality and won’t survive outside the womb. Ariana Almajan brings gentleness and thoughtfulness to her characters. As the token guy, Gerrard Alex Taylor—playing a series of boyfriends and husbands, and one hilariously enthusiastic financial advisor—knows how to do exactly what a piece like this requires: keep the focus on the women.
As a feminist and outspoken supporter of abortion rights, I was rooting for Out of Silence. These stories need to be told, and even in 2015, telling them is a radical act. I’m just not sure if theater is the right format for them.
See it if: You still have a hard time saying the word “abortion” out loud.
Skip it if: You don’t need to be reminded to trust women to make the right decisions about their bodies.