note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
The Hovey Players are a scrappy little company in Waltham who consistently present unconventional material in smart, high energy productions. KEELY AND DU by Jane Martin (rumored to be the pen name for the man who founded the prestigious Louisville Festival) is a gritty, preachy play about a woman’s right to “decide."
In KEELY AND DU (playing through March 15th) that particular young woman is pregnant and as the play begins, she’s been kidnapped by right-to-life “rescuers” who intend to prevent her from seeking an abortion. She’s chained to a bed and fed a constant diet of right-wing, religious propaganda. Of course, if you’re sympathetic to the anti-abortion cause, you may view the barrage of Bible quotes as righteous medicine. This isn’t your play.
What makes this grueling depiction of cruelty a cut above weekly television fare is the relationship which develops between Keely and the nurse (named Du) who signs on to the cause but can’t help feeling sorry for her charge.
The Hovey production grabs you and doesn’t let go for one reason---and that’s Philana Gnatowski as Keely. We first see her crumpled body carried unconscious into the safe house. Then we witness her waking realization that she is trapped like an animal in a cage. Gnatowski conveys her terror so viscerally, that we get chills imagining what it would be like. Gnatowski has a direct line to our emotions, she’s so good.
Wonderful, too, is Ann Carpenter as the nurse who befriends her and brings her a clean, new dress (costumes by Kristina Perry). Martin doesn’t explore the psychological ramifications of imprisonment (like Stockholm syndrome where captives come to identify with their captors). What is central to KEELY AND DU is Martin’s calculated plot structure which plays out in an ironic dramatic reversal.
Director Bill Doscher keeps the tension thick, with the heavies really heavy: Larry Lickteig is relentless as the preacher who lacks any compassion and Robin Gabrielli is transparently contrite as the freshly converted sinner. Michelle Aguillon’s cement block-cell set seems dank and cold in Jeremy Medicus’ spare and muted light. Even the clanging radiator pipes which were not part of Ed Council’s sound design seemed to fit the play.