In Chloe Whitehorn’s masterpiece Blood River, complacency ensures no uterus is safe.
Opening at the Baby Grand Theatre Oct. 25 and produced by Theatre Kingston, the play unfolds over three separate timelines and follows three women who tarry with their feelings about abortion care in a state where abortion and hormonal birth control are no longer legally accessible.
Brayah Pickard and Shannon Donnelly play the mother-daughter duo Cybelle and Diane, who debate the role of women in society and argue over how to deal with Cybelle’s unplanned pregnancy.
Diane is the quintessential trophy wife for any Republican politician. With blonde hair and a crucifix dangling from her neck, she butts heads with Cybelle, who’s excited to carve her place out in the world and struggles to understand her mother’s decisions.
Each character has an encounter with Karen, who’s otherwise known as the “Lady of the Lake.” Though she’s Diane’s former classmate, Karen is the sheer opposite of Diane. In their conversation at the riverbank, Karen openly criticizes Diane for sticking by her senator husband, who voted to pass anti-abortion laws, when Diane had an abortion as a teenager. Karen’s rage is palpable as she confronts Diane from her gondola.
Cybelle, on the other hand, is in awe of Karen. She encounters and eventually joins Karen,crossing the river to a state where abortion care is safe and legal.
Whitmore was living in South Carolina when she joined forces with Blood River’s Director Rosemary Doyle to write the play. The production was inspired by the murmurings that Roe v. Wade was about to be overturned by the US Supreme Court. Doyle felt it important to share the stories of individuals who have accessed abortion care.
As someone who was raised Catholic, Doyle said she considers abortion to be a justifiable murder where the individuals making the decision to have an abortion need emotional support throughout their procedure.
“I think if we fight for normalizing [something], then we don’t have to treat the severity of the decision,” Doyle said. “Women need support because they’ve made a big decision.”
I’ve had an abortion too, and while I don’t necessarily consider abortion to be murder, I’m not one to argue about where life begins. I agree with Doyle when she says ensuring abortion should be accessible to all, since it is a big decision that impacts the trajectory of the pregnant person’s life.
As someone that was lucky enough to have safe access to my procedure, I can’t begin to imagine the turmoil associated with not knowing where to safely terminate a pregnancy I couldn’t support.
None of the characters of Blood River fall within the traditional binary of being pro- or anti-choice, and each character understands the need for safe abortion care while understanding terminating a pregnancy is something that can be mourned.
Cybelle joins Karen to cross the river and end her pregnancy, but she too frets with her decision in the darkness. Though Diane supports her husband’s political career, she admits wanting Cybelle to have an abortion so she could see the future stretching out before her.
It’s difficult to find stories that engage the process one takes when deciding to have an abortion well. Whitehorn’s script leans more on the idea that needing an abortion is emotionally difficult, and I wish there was more representation for people that accessed abortion care while being completely sure of their decision.
Not all abortions are traumatizing, and this deserves representation too. Despite this, the script is intelligent from start to finish, with comedic relief sprinkled in at all the right moments.
At the end of the day, Doyle said she hopes people come to see the show because it’s both an important story to tell and a good piece of theatre.
Blood River runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 12 at the Baby Grand Theatre. Tickets are available at theatrekingston.com.
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