Theater To Change Minds: 'Mitzi's Abortion'

By Richard Green
In Culture

Sometimes you just want to see “Hello, Dolly!”

This is not “Hello, Dolly!”

But sometimes you want to be changed, even under difficult circumstances. It’s what theater does best. Here, Elizabeth Heffron’s 2006 play, “Mitzi’s Abortion”—playing at Tesseract Theatre through May 29—opens our eyes and makes us laugh, even as it tests our emotional endurance.

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Mikayla Sherfy and Cole Jacobs photo by Christopher Null

Mikayla Sherfy is Mitzi, who learns far more about abortion than she’d ever bargained for. It’s never gross or offensive, but the story does become intensely heart-wrenching. And one of Mitzi’s biggest problems is that all the people giving her advice seem to push her further and further from a decision.

Taylor Gruenloh directs, making sure to interrupt an increasingly dark scenario with clever character-based comedy—especially through regular appearances by the ghosts of the great philosopher Thomas Aquinas, and the Scottish midwife Reckless Mary.

As the famed monk, Robert Michael Hanson is tempted by the modern world (and succumbs regularly). But more importantly, he points out that life didn’t always “begin at conception,” in the historical understanding of pregnancy. In fact, Thomas Aquinas popularized the idea that the soul could not even enter a fetal body until half-way through human gestation.  (That idea held sway in political/religious circles till the last 40 years or so.)

Bre Love is Reckless Mary, and though her rapid-fire delivery and throwback Scottish accent make her hard to understand, enough of her humor and experience delivering babies comes through to remind us that history is crowded with difficult—or even impossible—pregnancies. She and Aquinas serve as the lonely voices of reason during much of Mitzi’s voyage.

Ms. Sherfy is so touching in the title role that we’re swept up in her troubles, in spite of whatever anesthetic distance we may wish, as the story moves forward. It’s a great theme, with regular injections of humor, and careful theatrical construction, to ease sometimes considerable pain. Cole Jacobs, as her boyfriend, provides tenderness and conflict, as well.

There’s a short play before all this, a 10-minute piece by Michael Erikson. It’s good election-year fun: a gaggle of political candidates making speeches about why they’re each dropping out of their races. A great little bonus for the evening.

The whole flavor of theater is changed by any great new company, and this is especially true for Tesseract Theatre, at the Regional Arts Commission.

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