In 1984, my roommate drove across two states so she could get a legal abortion. It took a week and cost her a month’s rent. I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t come back to school. Abortion week coincided with finals week and the final installment of tuition payments. She had it easy. In 1972, my favorite babysitter died of an “infection” everybody knew wasn’t from not washing her hands. It terrifies me how quickly the memory of those times fades.
With Roe, Lisa Loomer looks back to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for legal abortion. Ably directed at the Goodman by Vanessa Stalling, Roe explores both the legal precedent of the case as argued primarily by Sarah Weddington (Christina Hall) and the life of “Jane Roe,” aka Norma McCorvey (Kate Middleton). The production is frightening, and not only because reproductive rights are squarely in the crosshairs of the white supremacist patriarchy that’s been empowered since 2016. Roe is frightening because with its bell bottoms and rotary phones and pre-Internet landscape, it must seem like quaint, ancient history to anyone who doesn’t actually remember the 1970s, years not slavishly documented in real time on the socials.
Roe is built for entertainment value, not detailed history. It’s oddly jokey at times and has a lot of awkward direct address. Still, Hall’s Weddington makes legalese ring with passion and clarity. Middleton gives McCorvey a sense of fatalism (she expects very little from her life) that’s matched by reckless optimism (she’s almost always ready for a party). But most of all, Roe is urgent. That’s the most frightening thing of all. v