Theater Review: ROE (Fountain Theatre)

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by William C. on June 30, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles

On a beautiful breezy Sunday evening, my husband and I sat down in the parking lot of the Fountain Theater embracing ourselves to an emotional night. In this LA premiere hyper-staged reading of the play Roe, a gregarious and eager audience congregated at the theater. This is a timely piece of art that I think all of us have been looking forward to. I personally came to seek a moment of solace by coming to review this show. It felt good. It felt like an act of resistance in the wake of the Supreme Court denying a woman’s right to choose what she can do with her own body. Perhaps, this deep dive of the historical past would help ground my anger and give me language to speak about the current event. I was not disappointed.

The two act play consists of the first act, the history and select reenactments of Roe v. Wade case, the edutainment portion of the evening, if you will, and the second act, the personal and the fundamental shift in the woman that came to be known in history as Jane Roe. Lisa Loomer, the playwright, examines Roe v. Wade through the lens of two characters.

Kate Middleton’s portrayal of Norma McCorvey, aka Roe, is very funny and human. Norma is down on her luck, but she responds to the world with her sharp wit and rugged manners. Kate is astounding in this role. She showed a deep emotional range and great comedic timing. Christina Hall’s portrayal of Sarah Weddington, the budding lawyer representing Roe to the Supreme Court, is solid and grounded. Sarah plays the straight professional woman with such care and slow burning energy. Her monologue about ‘the angry woman’, where the character ruminates on the binary nature of public opinion on women, has stuck with me. There is something especially regal in Christina Hall’s presence on stage. That lends strength to the gravitas of the story.

The rest of the ensemble is fantastic. Each character takes on roles on both sides of the argument. I would like to especially highlight the superhuman feat of Pamela Dunlap, who played convincingly in multiple roles including but limited to Norma McCorvey’s horrible mother as well as a budding feminist who just found her cervix for the first time. She is funny, scary and just a force to be reckoned with on stage. I could not get enough of her presence on stage.

Director Vanessa Stalling has done a fantastic job in presenting this hyper-staged reading. I am certain, under the current climate, there must be an enormous pressure to do right by the work. The play’s energy is focused and timing, crisp. I certainly do hope that she gets a chance to direct a fully staged version of this work in Los Angeles.

It is kind of funny to think that Loomer had wondered if Roe would make good drama. From what I can tell, she documented and created a profound piece of literature. She found the human in the story. There is some uneveness in dealing with the issue, but they do not subvert the urgency of the message.

I do not want to spoil the newly updated ending, but I do want to highlight its importance. Kenya Alexander’s character in a heartfelt performance became an embodiment of every woman. She was our sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and other people you care about. It was moving and brought tears to the audience.

This is some damn good storytelling. Regardless of your stance on the recent Supreme Court decision, I recommend every American to go watch this play, which closes July 10, Fri to Sun at 8pm. Visit Fountain Theatre for tickets.

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