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Femme Inanity 

Abortion controversy goes bland at Red Hen.

There are few topics more agonizing in today's culture than abortion. Once you lop off the extremists at either end of the spectrum -- the radical anti-choice zealots, who think any fertilized egg has more rights than its host female, and the fervent pro-choice proponents, who refuse to acknowledge that abortion does in fact end a potential life -- you are left with a massive number of people who are honestly conflicted about the issue.

Red Hen Productions is a feminist theater dedicated to bringing women's voices, concerns, and lives into the bloodstream of our community, and for that they are to be saluted. However, their current production of Tuesday in No Man's Land by Veona Thomas is a classic example of feminist theater gone sadly awry, beset as it is by an illogical script, some ham-fisted performances, and tone-deaf direction by Amanda Shaffer. Set in an abortion clinic, Thomas's play amazingly manages to elude every possible point of conflict by throwing together four strangers -- a clinic nurse (Norma Jean Powell) and three women seeking pregnancy termination -- and forcing them to behave in remarkably eccentric ways.

First Angela (Meredith King), an African American, enters and reveals that she has come to the clinic even though the man who inseminated her doesn't know she's seeking an abortion. Soon she's joined in the waiting area by squeaky-white H.B. (Marni Task, doing a creditable job), a young go-getter real-estate agent, who wants to finish the procedure so that she can keep an important lunch engagement. And then, to ensure proper racial diversity, a Puerto Rican woman named Odalys (played by Erin Kaminski, using a nearly indecipherable, quasi-Hispanic accent) saunters in for treatment. Oddly, none of the women is offered counseling, a step that is pro forma in virtually all clinics, and each is processed as if they can walk in and have an abortion within minutes.

Beyond factual missteps, the actions that playwright Thomas imposes on her characters are puzzling at best. For instance, once all three patients have gathered, the Helen Reddy song "I Am Woman" comes on the clinic radio, and the gals -- who minutes before had been looking daggers at each other -- are suddenly dancing together and doing a karaoke bit with the tune, complete with dance moves. As if three women facing a wrenching reproductive decision would ever even think of doing such a thing. From there, the 45-minute production devolves into a series of fist-shaking speeches about the violence-prone protesters outside the building, random statistics about abortion, and a smokebomb planted by a counterfeit patient (Laura J. Howe).

Along the way, Thomas's alternately didactic and maudlin writing serves to shred whatever is left of the play's thin fabric of credibility. To wit, one woman comments on the cloudburst outside by observing, "The sky is weeping for us here in no man's land." For those who support smart, savvy, and theatrically involving feminist theater, this show's just another rainy day.

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