BWW Review: Men Worship Extinct Women in Robert O'Hara's Audacious Satire MANKIND
That old adage that if men got pregnant, abortion and reproductive health would be fully funded by the federal government gets quite a workout in playwright/director Robert O'Hara's wild gender politics satire Mankind.
There are no women in Earth's future, because the human body has reacted to suffocating patriarchal norms by biologically evolving in a way that ceases it from reproducing females, causing the gender's extinction.
Though the details are not fully explained, men have evolved so they can now reproduce with each other, birthing further generations of males.
And that's just the beginning.
Mark and Jason (Anson Mount and Bobby Moreno as a bickering couple) have a casual relationship, heavy on the sex, light on communication. Though both use birth control, Jason accidentally gets pregnant. Neither are interested in raising a child, but abortions are illegal; a law dating back when women roamed the planet.
But that doesn't mean people still aren't getting dangerous, back alley abortions. Jason thinks he can trust his OBGYN (smarmy David Ryan Smith) and asks if he has any connections to help terminate his pregnancy, but before it can be done, he and Mark are arrested for attempted murder of the fetus.
But while serving time in prison, Jason gives birth to... a girl! It's a miracle! It's a sign!
They name their daughter Cry-Baby (As opposed to Christ Child?) and a long-lost word is brought back into the forefront by an underground movement of secret believers who call themselves Feminists.
Even when Cry-Baby dies in infancy, it doesn't stop the surge of Feminists who believe that Jason's demand that he be allowed an abortion as a civil right is what caused his fetus to develop as female, and they now prepare for the second coming of SHE.
The first act ends with a prayer service in a Feminist church, whose symbol is a golden Cry-Baby. A spiritual leader played by Andre De Shields (sporting his usual commanding elegance) asks all males in the audience to rise, as replicas of Cry-Baby are passed among them, and prayers are accented with vocal chimes of "Ah-Wo-men."
The preparation for the return of Wo-men to society includes the teaching of ten commandments. Among them, "Wo-men must enter all male dominated occupations," "The Intellectual and Artistic Achievements of Wo-men must be Worshipped" and "Wo-men will choose when, how and with whom they will have sex."
But embracing gender equality is something new for men, so when Feminism is installed as a government-sanctioned religion, some old patriarchal habits die hard.
While the plot gets a little muddy in the second act, where, at its strongest, Mark and Jason start getting to truly know and care for each other, Mankind is so high-charged with imagination and audacity for its first half that the fumes of creative energy keep pushing it forward.
Though the plot involves Feminism, Mankind is more about the better side of men in their attempts to understand women; often looking foolish in the process, but still well-meaning. For example, the cast collects donations for Planned Parenthood after every performance.