Imagine this. A play about abortion by a celebrated writer is having difficulty finding a stage. Why? In this age when even mediocre movies and plays about abortion get nominated for every award possible, why would a play about abortion have a tough time finding a stage? Easy. Because it doesn’t mock pro-lifers.
Time Out reports:
“I think that women are really not going to go for this,” Jonathan Reynolds predicts of his new play, Girls in Trouble. “Particularly women over 40, because they’ve been to the barricades with this issue.” The topic of the drama, set in three time periods, is abortion; and what makes the show so shocking is its choice depiction of a radical pro-life activist. “People have basically said, ‘How dare you put somebody so antiabortion onstage—and not make fun of her?’?” Reynolds notes. “The fact that I bring up abortion as an issue to be reexamined on moral grounds will be viewed as conservative.”
Not that Reynolds goes out of his way to resist such labels. An engaging writer and charming raconteur—as demonstrated in his food columns for the New York Times Magazine and his 2003 solo show, Dinner with Demons—he is also one of the few openly right-of-center playwrights working prominently today, and he has ardently courted controversy before. It took 12 years, he says, to find a theater willing to stage his racily race-themed 1997 comedy, Stonewall Jackson’s House, a dark comedy about identity politics that wound up short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize.
Reynolds has run into similar trouble before and he gets a little tired of all the excuses he’s heard why his plays aren’t put on.
“What’s frustrating is that they won’t fess up and say, ‘I hate the politics of this play so I’m not putting it on,’” Reynolds explains. “Instead they say, ‘Oh, the character’s weak here,’ or ‘I don’t believe this.’ And maybe they’re right. But my bet is they’re worried about their board or the group they run with.”
Reynolds finally got word that a group in New York would do the play. Reynolds’s goal is to stimulate an honest discussion of the ethics of abortion.
“In my opinion, a lot of the old lefty arguments have not been brought up to date, and the right-wing ones have science on their side now,” he argues. “I’ve talked to many people from the pro-choice organizations, and they don’t have anything to say other than it’s a woman’s right to choose. But I do question that and say, ‘Oh yeah? Who says you’ve got the right to choose?’ That’s what a character in the play basically says.”
“I think for women of a particular generation, this isn’t something even to be discussed: It is a basic human right,” Simpson observes. “A consideration of what abortion is, even just on a clinical level, isn’t something that they’re interested in encountering. And so Jonathan, in wanting to consider this, has had to pull out a lot of interesting playwriting in order to make it happen.” If the play strikes some people as unbalanced, Reynolds suggests, it may be because the pro-life side is so seldom heard onstage. “It’s heard on Fox News and some other places, but the stage lags far behind the political discussion and what’s in the air,” he says. “So the theater’s taken less seriously, politically, because it never represents the other point of view.”
The writer says that he believes both sides will not be completely comfortable with the play but he believes that both sides have a right to be heard. Sadly, the New York theater community doesn’t seem to agree.