Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Keely & Du"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Larry Stark

"Keely & Du"

by Jane Martin
Directed by Bill Doscher

Co-Producers Jessie Olson & Kristin Hughes
Set Design by Michelle M. Aguillon
Lighting Design by Jeremy Medicus
Costume Design by Kristina Perry
Sound Design by Ed Council
Props by Mark Sickler & Kristin Hughes
Stage Manager Mark Sickler

Keely......Philana Gnatowski
Du.............Ann Carpenter
Walter........Larry Lickteig
Cole.........Robin Gabrielli

"Keely & Du" was Nine Plays Ago on my pocket-calendar, and I was glad to find Beverly Creasey's review and Jim Wagner's quick-take rolling in, since I loved the play and agreed with both reviewers --- even though seeing so much theater left little time for me to Write about any of it. Still, when the warm applause for the play stilled opening night at the Abbott Memorial, the guy next to me burst out "What does she mean by the last line? It's obvious, isn't it?"

Well, I tend to think "describe" rather than "analyze" when seeing a show, but I've been thinking about that question in my free time ever since. Trouble is, to answer him, I've got to plow into this intense play and destroy any surprises the audience might experience. So DON'T READ this unless you've already seen the show, or plan Not To See It. Trust me, nothing you learn here will be so important as to make compromising the searing experience of the play itself.
You were warned.

I really think it was the questioner's failings, not author Jane Martin's, that created the problem. Martin's play is a dramatically structured argument, not so much about abortion, but in defense of Feminism. The questioner saw the powerful realization of the abortion flap and, agreeing with Keely's point-of-view, he missed the deeper feminist subtext.

It's not just because Keely was raped by her alcoholic husband, in defiance of his restraining-order, that makes her hate not the foetus, but the Fact of that child's existence. The pregnancy becomes a symbol of women's bondage ("Anatomy is destiny") to their pre-destined role in the world. All her life, it has been some Man --- father, teacher, boy-friend, husband --- and now a gestapo-like autocrat in a minister's collar has chained her to a bed in her third month pereptorily demanding "You WILL have this baby, and You WILL Love It!" Conform, woman, he shouts: Be what your body insists you must. Keely knows only one life will emerge intact from her basement prison. If she must commit murder in order to live --- so be it.

It's the gentle and understanding nurse, Du, who tells her own story of eventual acceptance of her lot in life. She advocates compromise --- but her admission that birthing and raising a family allowed her, only when her hair already turned grey, at last to love her husband is, to Keely, of an entire life lived in slavery to other people's values, not her own.

Keely takes her one chance to break free, manipulating a bent coat-hanger with her own hands in a bloody act of desperation --- but it's the nurse not the minister who ends up in a bright-orange jump-suit behind bars. And oddly enough it's Keely in the last scene who is her only faithful visitor, bringing food and soap and conversation to mitigate the rigors of prison life.

So it's Du's single, reproach-wrapped word ending the play, that should remind the audience that there are here bigger fish to fry. Du will never see this murder as a desperate act of SELF-preservation, and Keely will never see it as killing a Person. Each one of them, uncompromising and unrepentent, can ask the play's wider question:


( a k a larry stark)

"Keely & Du" (29 February - 15 March)
@ Abbott Memorial Theatre, 9 Spring Street @ Joel's Way, WALTHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide