Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Keely and Du
Keely and Du has been around since 1993 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1994, but it screams "June 2022." It was written by Jane Martin, a pseudonym for a playwright who remains unknown to this day, despite having written more than ten plays. The only thing that has been divulged about this person is that it is a person from Kentucky.
In the play, it is not the federal or state government that blocks Keely from having an abortion. It is a group of "like-minded Christians" who believe that every fetus represents an innocent life and it their mission to save that life regardless of the wishes of the mother and regardless of how she became pregnant, even if by rape. They take their conviction from Bible verses such as: "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
This group has set up a social experiment of a sort. They have kidnapped four women around the country who intend to have abortions. Keely is one of them. They drug her and bring her to a basement room, somewhere far from where she lives. They intend to keep her in this room, cared for by a nurse, until she is in her seventh month, at which point it is too late to abort. Then, if she bonds with the baby and wants to raise it, they will provide financial support for the first two years and cover all educational expenses. If she does not want the baby, they will find a young couple to adopt it. After many years, they will show the world these wonderful children whose misguided mothers wanted to abort them.
The entire play takes place in the basement room. It runs for about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, but don't let that dissuade you from seeing it. The length of many movies nowadays, the play builds gradually to a quite shocking conclusion.
It's a workout for the two female leads, who are on stage the entire time. The acting is exceptional by both Alexandra Empey (Keely) and Ramona King (Du, the nurse). The script allows them to be human beings, not just symbols, not just right or wrong, bad or good, and both actresses perfectly demonstrate that complexity. There is a pastor who looks in on Keely from time to time and proselytizes, and Andy Wickham plays him with the appropriate mixture of self-righteousness and frustration as his preaching falls on deaf ears. Jeff Dolecek makes the most of his small but important role. The actors and stage action are very well directed by Herman Johansen.
The unit set and props are by Linda Wilson, and they are all that is necessary. Casey Mraz did the sound; I don't know if he's the one who thought of having the Ben Folds Five song "Brick" as the pre-curtain number, but it couldn't be more appropriate. The lighting is more complicated than you would expect because of quite a few blackouts, and it is handled expertly by Tim Wilkins. All in all, for a small startup theater company presenting their second staged play, Actors Studio 66 has mounted a very impressive production.
Keely and Du runs through July 10, 2022, at Actors Studio 66, Black Cat Cultural Center, 3011 Monte Vista NE (just north of Central Ave.), Albuquerque NM. Running. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $20. For information and tickets, please visit actorsstudio66.org.