• "Dry Land" at Atwater Village Theater (Photo - Darrett Sanders).

      “Dry Land” at Atwater Village Theater (Photo – Darrett Sanders).

      Ester is a swimmer trying to stay afloat. Amy is curled up on the locker room floor. Ruby Rae Spiegel’s play is about female friendship, abortion and resiliency, and what happens in one high school locker room after everybody’s left.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      That’s the basic outline presented to announce this play, and let me tell you, every one of those elements was explored to heart-wrenching depths in this timely, yet timeless, production. From the opening line from Amy (TeaganRose) to Esther (Connor Kelly-Eiding), “Punch me!” to the final moment and the silent exodus of the audience, still recovering from wherever their thoughts, emotions, and personal life experience took them as the play unfolded in front of them, this play does not let up. There is no way you cannot engage and explore your own feelings on the various issues raised, regardless of whether you are female, male, young or old, or have any personal experience with teenage female friendships or abortion. Although the issues are timeless, the issue of the legality of abortion is quite timely in light of the current movement of a certain element of society that sees no option but to ban it.

      The author, Ruby Rae Spiegel, was inspired by an article on “DIY abortions,” and turned that idea into a 1-3/4 hour play that boldly expands, with no punches pulled, on the ramifications of that idea, and every single minute is essential to the play, even though some minutes are difficult to watch. I was not the only one in the audience with a hand over the mouth because they wanted to gasp when they knew another gut-wrenching moment was coming. To have that level of emotion-evoking moments in a play without it seeming gratuitous is quite an accomplishment. Alana Dietze’s direction is superb and intuitive, and I look forward to more productions directed by Ms. Dietze as well as more plays written by Ms. Spiegel.

      Dry Land (Photo - Darrett Sanders).

      Dry Land (Photo – Darrett Sanders).

      The interaction leading up to the actual abortion/miscarriage takes us on a roller coaster of experiences and attitudes most teenage girls go through, and again, even if you were never a teenage girl, you’ll feel it. You’ll get why peer support among girls that age is complicated and pivotal in how they make their decisions, how they connect (or avoid connecting), and how essential those relationships are to the shaping of their adult selves. The size of the theater, the semi-circular arrangement of seats, and the intensity of the subject matter were very effective in making the audience sometimes forget we were watching a play – we felt we were in that locker room.

      The two major scenes, the actual miscarriage and the janitor’s job thereafter, are extended for many minutes, and that works perfectly to not only portray the exact details of what is going on in the play, but also allow the audience to explore their own personal feelings and experience with the various issues. For me, my heart and mind remembered the ’60’s I grew up in, where abortion was illegal, and desperate young ladies literally had to seek out the “back alley doctor” who would perform one, one friend nearly meeting with disastrous consequences because she was afraid to tell her parents what she had done. I also reflected on my years of working for an adoption attorney, and recalled the sadness I feel every time I see a story about an abandoned newborn who dies in a dumpster or bathroom, knowing that the mother could have turned her unwanted situation into a joyous gift to adoptive parents. I wondered what was going through the minds of the other audience members.

      "Dry Land" play (Photo - Darrett Sanders).

      “Dry Land” play (Photo – Darrett Sanders).

      The surprisingly long scene where the janitor cleans up the locker room, while listening to tunes on his iPod, gave us time to decompress, let our hands drop back to our laps, and reflect on how such life-changing moments that happen to people every day can be washed away without a trace visible to onlookers, with all of the the pain, strength, bonds, joy, and sorrow sucked back into the participants’ selves, to affect their future paths.

      In addition to the two main actors, the performances of the primary supporting cast are right on point and excellent as well – classmate Reba (Jenny Soo), the janitor (Daniel Hagen), and Victor (Ben Horwitz), Ether’s partner in a touching scene where she has to spend a night in his room.

      Dry Land
      • Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel
      • Directed by Alana Dietze
      • Starring Connor Kelly-Eiding, Teagan Rose, Daniel Hagen, Ben Horwitz, Jenny Soo
      • Presented by The Echo Theater Company
      Atwater Village Theatre
      3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039
      (FREE parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater).

      • Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 29; May 6, 13
      • Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 23, 30; May 7, 14
      • Sundays at 4 p.m.: April 24; May 1, 8, 15
      • Sundays at 7 p.m.: April 24; May 1, 8, 15
      General admission: $25
      (Also, discounted tickets available for most dates at goldstar.com).
      • Buy tickets here.

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