Review | Roe: wows in all the right ways

Mixed Blood Theater, through March 31

 

Tracey Maloney in ROE. Photo by Rich Ryan.

Mixed Blood Theatre‘s production of Roe could not come at a timelier moment in our country’s history as the landmark Supreme Court ruling continues to face fierce opposition today. However, Roe, written by Lisa Loomer, doesn’t spend too much time in the present, nor does the play center on the Supreme Court case itself. Instead, Roe focuses on the life story, as absurd as it sometimes is, of Norma McCorvey (Roe) and the lawyer Sarah Weddington who fought for a woman’s right to choose.

Director Mark Valdez takes the story of Roe v. Wade and breaths life into the case outside of the courtroom. Colorful lighting projections, clever costuming, recorded clips from the Supreme Court case, and loud thumping music snippets all help guide the audience through the decades of Norma McCorvey’s life which starts in a Texas bar.

We learn that Norma McCorvey, played by Tracey Maloney, is pregnant with her third child and cannot bear the thought of adoption. She desperately seeks to find a doctor willing to perform an abortion. Meanwhile, Sarah Weddington, played by Laura Zabel, fresh out of law school, is working on the colossal task of challenging the Texas’s anti-abortion laws. Their two paths cross: one a down-on-her-luck pregnant women just looking for a solution and the other a savvy lawyer looking for a plaintiff. Roe is Norma McCorvey, and the fake name would forever be entwined with McCorvey’s life.

A unique aspect of the production is the way the players interact with the audience. The cast breaks the fourth wall to set the record straight, give her or his take on the events as they are happening, or recall a line from their obituary.

Roe is not pro or anti-choice. Roe is a “battle to control the narrative,” as Mark Valdez states in his director’s notes. Loomer does a brilliant job of giving McCorvey a voice outside of Roe by telling her whole story which includes baptism and a radical pro-life shift.

Roe features a strong ensemble of players, tasked with telling the 40 year epic of McCorvey’s life experiences. One standout is Michael Booth as Flip who bursts on the scene before intermission with all the grandeur and pomp of a televangelist preacher. Lisa Suarez, who plays McCorvey’s longtime partner Connie, anchors so many tense scenes with a strong and steadfast presence, you are immediately drawn to the character anytime Suarez is onstage.

Roe is a a grand achievement for Mixed Blood, and the production will have you cheering, laughing, and even booing no matter where you stand on the issue itself. So much of history is easily lost in the headlines that we can quickly forget the people behind the names. Loomer’s Roe understands this all too well, and the cast and crew’s hard work in bringing this incredible story to the stage shines through the entire production.

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