Friday, November 8, 2013

'Mitzi's Abortion': A Notable Achievement at Hollins

After a while, you begin to wonder where the ceiling—glass or otherwise—is at Hollins University Theatre. Its current production, “Mitzi’s Abortion: A Saint’s Guide to Late-Term Politics & Medicine in America,” is yet another departmental break-out (so to speak), combining talents from the school and the community to produce an astonishing piece of topical, adult entertainment.

Elizabeth Heffron
The play, written by Hollins MFA (Playwright’s Lab) candidate Elizabeth Heffron (class of 2014), aSeattle-based writer with a solid resume, runs through Saturday and is produced in the round, putting the audience on top of the play in an intimate setting. Tickets are $10.

“Mitzi’s Abortion,” directed by theater department head Ernie Zulia, whose productions are consistently outstanding ("genius" is a word often associated with him), tells the story of a young pregnant woman whose baby would be born without a brain, should it be allowed birth.

The terrible deformity would kill a live child within days of birth. She is married to a soldier who is deployed in the Middle East during the pregnancy and covered by his government insurance, which does not allow for late-term abortion—regardless of the circumstance. 

Mitzi’s family and friends—a lively and colorful bunch—become deeply involved in the personal and political tragedy. All the while, the situation conjures up appearances by an obese and very funny St. Thomas Aquinas (Robert Mish) and 17th Century midwife Reckless Mary (Amanda Mansfield), who was burned at the stake in her time and bears the scars still. These two have some poignant and hilarious scenes and carry them off with masterful characterization.

The cast is comprised of a mix of Hollins students (led by Russell Wilson as Mitzi; she’s been in four Hollins productions) and local theater veterans (including Todd Ristau, the Playwright’s Lab director) who combine to create an impressive troupe.

This is a complex story and the script reflects the myriad nuances surrounding an issue that has ripped at the nation’s fabric since the early 1970s. It is full of real information about abortion’s history, process and politics, woven in a way a master teacher would instruct.

Regardless of which side of the abortion issue is yours, the playwright creates a balanced and thoughtful story, a personal issue that is ultimately between mother and baby. It will tug at your heart when it is not enlightening you.

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