Toronto’s Cue6 Theatre presents Ruby Rae Spiegel play taking on teen abortion
Cue6 Theatre’s production of Dry Land opened on Friday at The Assembly Theatre. Playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel was only 21 when the play was first produced. One of the things that motivated her was reading an article about the rise of DIY abortions. Given the changes to the laws in the U.S. over the past few years it’s a timely topic. It’s one we can’t afford to ignore here either. Unfortunately.
This makes it sound as if Dry Land is a political play. It isn’t. The publicity says it’s a play about “abortion, female friendship, and resiliency“. It’s funny, and agonizing, and wonderful. My friend Marg and I both loved it.
As with every other show I’ve seen at The Assembly, I loved the set. Elahe Marjovi’s locker room was pure high school with banks of lockers, complete with combination locks, on two walls; a couple of back packs and a pair of shoes abandoned on the floor; two notice boards; a bench in the middle of the room; a litter container; and a tile floor. There were two entrances: one near the front that lead to the main part of the school and one at the back that led to the pool in one direction and the showers in the other direction.
The play opens with Amy (Veronica Hortiguela) standing in front of her locker telling Ester (Mattie Driscoll) to punch her in the stomach. Initially the punches are more like taps but Amy keeps telling her to punch harder and eventually Ester is landing serious blows.
It’s obvious that they don’t know each other very well and that Ester wants to be Amy’s friend. Driscoll plays her as kind of wound up, nervous, and ditzy. She smiles and giggles and plays with her hair and asks Amy if she likes zombies one minute and why she isn’t having a medical abortion the next. It’s all normal to Amy who says yeah she likes zombies and she’d have to tell her mother if she did. She says that the guy who got her pregnant has no money and she has no money for the ‘internet’ pills.
This to explain why she asking Ester to help her do these old fashioned things to bring on a miscarriage. When Ester asks why she doesn’t ask her best friend Reba to help Amy doesn’t really have an answer.
This is all happening at the same time as general conversation and stomach punching. And some very funny moments and lines.
When Reba (Reanne Spitzer) joins them in the locker room it’s suddenly an uneven triangle. Spitzer is delightful as Reba, self-absorbed, funny, oblivious to the undercurrents. Even so, suddenly there’s a lot of tension between Amy and Ester.
There’s a point in the play where I knew that the pregnancy was going to end, I didn’t know how. I was on the edge of my seat with a combination of anxiety and apprehension, wanting that part to come and to be over.
The termination scene was really well done. It felt as if both girls had read about what to expect but didn’t really know what that meant. Ester telling Amy that she had to finish it but that it would pass was very powerful.
One of the things I loved was the way that both girls changed by the end of the play. Edith had gained self confidence and knew that she was an equal in her friendship with Amy.
Amy seemed to be less sure of herself and kinder which also leveled the friendship.
Through most of the play there’s a pattern of tension followed by humour followed by tension followed by humour. It worked beautifully with Jill Harper’s direction. The timing was always perfect. I really liked the way that she used the stage, it felt much bigger than it is.
Marg and I both loved Dry Land. We talked about it all the way home. It’s really a gift; an amazing script, great direction, and a fabulous cast. We both recommend it highly.
- Dry Land is playing until September 22 at The Assembly Theatre (1479 Queen St W)
- Show times are Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00pm
- Tickets are $35, (Students, seniors, arts workers – $25) and are available online and at the door
- Content Warning: Graphic depiction of labour and miscarriage, open discussion of abortion
Photo of Mattie Driscoll by Samantha Hurley