Ruby Rae Spiegel’s 2014 play “Dry Land” is a topical, funny, intimate drama that, because of its central focus on abortion, has suddenly become more relevant and timely than ever. It’s no surprise, then, that Capital T Theatre — a company that is no stranger to intense and controversial texts — has mounted a new production, running through June 15 at Hyde Park Theatre.
At the core of “Dry Land” is a tempestuous, deeply felt friendship between Amy and Ester, two girls on their high school swim team. We quickly learn that Amy is pregnant and wants an abortion but does not have easy access to a provider. She has turned to Ester for help in figuring out, and pulling off, some kind of at-home termination.
The politics of abortion are rarely, if ever, mentioned. Instead, we see the growth of the girls’ friendship as they come to grips with this incredibly adult decision, while still trying to navigate the tribulations of high school life. The text constantly (and sometimes purposefully jarringly) switches between these two poles, as their conversation easily switches between discussing a biology report and drinking bleach.
Amy’s problem drives the story’s narrative, but Ester in many ways is the protagonist. Though much less dramatic than Amy, Ester drops hints at a traumatic past and deep-seated issues she is struggling to overcome. Spiegel’s script highlights this contrast, but the two actresses at the heart of Capital T’s production truly embody it.
Anikka Lekven portrays Amy without falling into the stereotypical trope of the “damaged” teenage girl, choosing to emphasize the character’s strengths as much as her flaws. Similarly, Ester has the potential to simply be lost and confused, but Amara Johnson imbues her with a sense of loneliness and longing for connection that is somehow even sadder. The complexity of these two girls is put into starkest relief thanks to Lucy Abramowitz’ hilarious representation of another girl on the swim team, Reba, as a ditzy, horny, care-free teenager seemingly without the darkness of the other two characters but also lacking in drive.
Director Cheryl Painter has done an excellent job taking Spiegel’s complex and sometimes deliberately elliptical text and layering it with even greater amounts of nuance, leaving much of the girl’s relationship open to interpretation. What remains clear, though, is that at the heart of “Dry Land” is a great amount of trauma inflicted upon both girls by a society, and a legal system, that refuses to care about their mental or physical health, leaving them clinging to each other in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
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