BWW Review: PRIVATE PASSAGE at Kingsman Row Entertainment in Association with Iowa Stage

BWW Review: PRIVATE PASSAGE at Kingsman Row Entertainment in Association with Iowa StageOne of the great things theatre can do is start a conversation on topics that may not be the most comfortable to talk about. Sometimes it prompts a conversation, and other times it leaves you to ponder what your thoughts are on an issue. In Iowa Stage's and Kingman Row Entertainment's joint production of "Private Passage," it asks the audience to do both on an issue that has been featured heavily in the news lately. That issue is women's reproductive rights.

What this show does beautifully, is show the different views people have about reproductive rights, and the impacts it could potentially have. The show centers around a young adult named Drew who has just found out towards the beginning of the show that she is pregnant. As the show continues she is faced with a choice, should she terminate the pregnancy or not. She is faced with a boyfriend who wants to keep the child, a mother who protest outside of abortion clinics, and is haunted by her sister who has died due to an abortion. What I appreciate about the show, is it leaves the audience to decide if Drew went through with terminating the pregnancy or not.

This show is beautifully directed by co playwright James Serpento, who has been seen onstage in Iowa Stage recent productions of "The Lion In Winter" and "Macbeth." His imaginative staging has the actors entering from throughout the theatre, including a few in the audience. It was a great way to pull the audience into the show being presented. The aspect of directing I loved most was how Serpento was able to take the few set pieces there were and transport the audience to each place mentioned in the show. Because of this, there never seemed to be a moment where the show slowed down. The pace of the staging continued to increase in the second act until the penultimate scenes of the show that drives home the importance of having women's reproductive rights.

Each character brings their perspective to the issues addressed during the play, and the actors do an amazing job bringing each perspective to life. While the play presents perspectives of both men and women on reproductive rights, I think it is important to focus on the mother and two daughters to best understand why this show is important, and why it leaves you pondering and potentially having conversations after the show.

To understand the daughters and their decisions, we first have to look at the mother played by Jennifer Hughes. She creates a character that you want to comfort at times as well as confront. When you see her at the funeral of her daughter Phoebe, you can't help but feel sorry for her. You get to see her grief and the torture of losing a child in how she responds to father when he tries to rush her to the car after the funeral. As the show goes on, you slowly find out that from the beginning of the show, she has been a protester at abortion clinics, and pulls her daughters out of school to go to these protest. The toughest part is seeing how her daughters don't feel they can come to her to tell her that they are pregnant because in her mind there is no choice, you carry the child to full term and then give it up for adoption if you so choose.

Maggie Jane Tatone has the difficult job of bringing life to Pheobe who appears as a childlike ghost at the beginning of the show. The youthfulness she brought to the character made the character more haunting as the show went on. Early on in the play, we find out she is the sister who's funeral we see in the play. Through the second act of the show, we see Maggie become more emotional and lost as her character decides to terminate her pregnancy. We feel the pain her character feels as doors are slammed in her face again, and again, to the point, she feels there is nowhere to turn. This ultimately leads to her character's death in one of the most gut-wrenching and heartbreaking scenes I have ever seen on stage.

Leading the show is Heidi Bibler as Drew. Her character serves as a guide through the different views people have when she finds out she is pregnant. Because of this she carries the emotional weight of this show and does it expertly. Heidi gives one of the most emotionally raw performances I have seen. In the final few scenes of the play, we see the evening her sister died, as well as her telling her mother about wanting to have an abortion. The emotions she puts into these makes this a performance I will remember for a long time.

This show is the kind of show that starts a conversation, and this is an important conversation to have. This show may not change your mind about reproductive rights, but it opens the conversation through the phenomenal direction and acting. "Private Passage" runs through July 26, so get your tickets quick. To find out more about this show, or to purchase tickets, https://www.facebook.com/events/426294464622028/

DC Felton
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