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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Star is Born in Mitziís Abortion
at ACT Theatre

Mitzi's Abortion
Shelley Reynolds and
Eric Ray Anderson

Though it is always good to see returning favorites in lead roles at Seattleís major playhouses, it is bracingly refreshing to see a young thespian give an incandescent performance that will undoubtedly make her one of those often-employed few.† Sharia Pierce has been doing quality work at several local venues since her 2002 arrival in Seattle, but she has clearly arrived as a force to be reckoned with in director Kurt Beattieís production of Elizabeth Heffronís challenging play Mitziís Abortion at ACT Theatre.

With not a little comedy to lighten the proceedings, Heffronís play (winner of ACTís 2005 Best New Play award), which is set in contemporary Seattle, tells of Mitzi, a naÔve, likable, Esperanto studying student and part-time Subway sandwich maker. She conceives a baby before she is really even sure she wants one, with a macho boyfriend who gets shipped away by the U.S. military before she is very far along. She then finds that that the baby, though technically alive, has only a brain stem, not a brain, and her obstetrics doctor recommends a late-term abortion. Not only do her loutish if loving mother, kindly stepfather, well meaning school friends, and the babyís father have their opinions about what Mitzi should do, but she also has otherworldly visitations from St. Thomas Aquinas and Reckless Mary, a 17th century midwife-abortionist. That these characters do not exclusively appear to Mitzi is a rather problematic script tangent, as are appearances by a character called The Expert, who rather tediously breaks in with clinical commentary and clarification. But the writing of Mitzi herself is skillful, balanced and honest, as is Pierceís performance. The moment at the end when she sings ďOver the RainbowĒ (just why, I will not reveal) is as moving as anything I have seen in any Seattle theatre in recent memory.

Mitziís mess of a mother is played with frank honesty and just enough redeeming likability by Kit Harris. Eric Ray Anderson garners some big laughs as Thomas Aquinas, and offers a shaded, non-stereotypical portrayal of Mitziís pro-life, gay school chum Tim. Leslie Law rips into Reckless Mary with a damn-the-torpedoes gusto, and as Sheila, the health plan rep who must advise that this sort of termination of pregnancy is not a covered benefit, she is a chillingly officious representative on all that is worst about the U.S. health care system. Richard Ziman scores a triple knockout in his very different roles as Mitziís loving stepfather Rudolfo, the supportive and pro-patient Dr. Block, and Mitziís clueless and repellent Uncle Tub. Itís also good to see the vibrant Shelley Reynolds back on the boards as Mitziís salty friend Nita, and Sean Cook is right on as Mitziís self-absorbed soldier boyfriend Chuck, and contrastingly warm as Sergei, the lab tech who first views Mitziís troubled fetus.

Narelle Sissons' versatile set suggests the playís varied locales aptly, and Chris Reayís lighting design and Sarah Nash Gatesí costume design are both solid.† Heffronís play could stand a bit of trimming, but Beattieís direction flows very nicely with the text as it now exists. And I will go out on a limb and say that Seattleís theaters had better cast the luminous Sharia Pierce while they may, because I have a hunch this actress is going to be showing up on Broadway, and in films and TV before we know it.

Mitziís Abortion runs through August 20 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street in downtown Seattle. For more information visit www.acttheatre.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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