Pictured: Emily Sukolics and Erdin Schultz-Beyer. Photo by Brian Paulette.
Review: DRY LAND at Fishtank Theater
By Bec Pennington
Dry Land perfectly depicts the fragility of the age, where autonomy is confusing, knowledge is too often withheld, and choices can have the worst of consequences. It’s painfully evident. She’s too young, she doesn’t know herself or what she wants out of life. She’s concerned about the little things that don’t matter and afraid to chase her dreams. She’s only just figured out that Brandon is a dick.
The MTH Theater at Crown Center, where Fishtank Theater is producing DRY LAND, is a great theater for this show, intimate and welcoming, with in-house refreshments including a full bar — perhaps a must for the heavy subject matter. Costuming was thoughtful and cohesive, sound was appropriately well-mixed, lighting creative for the space. At first, the actors seemed unsure of their pacing, gestures were awkward, lines halting, but by the second scene, it was apparent that this was not accidental and actually brilliantly executed by director Heidi Van.
Simply set for the most part in the locker room for the girls’ school swimming pool, this show follows Amy and Ester as they struggle to find a solution for Amy’s pregnancy. The desperation of the situation is perfectly juxtaposed to the trivial dialog whenever the uninformed best friend enters the room. Ester is Amy’s only hope.
I was there. As young women we were taught that being sexual was shameful, that our value was in the state of our bodies. On one hand, our peers and popular media told us we were supposed to be sexy and experienced, and on the other, society and our parents insisted we should be pure and innocent. In light of the conflict, I learned that the failure was in being caught – worse, left with a permanent consequence. I didn’t learn to be free or to love my body. When I found myself pregnant, I was filled with shame and fear and wished I could hide or get rid of it. My boyfriend was too busy getting his ducks in a row and “doing the right thing” to feel guilty or embarrassed. Somehow, we figured it out. I’ve gone back and forth over whether it was really the right thing after all, but we’re here all the years later with a teenager of our own.
The main characters, portrayed endearingly by Emily Sukolics and Erdin Schultz-Bever, are my daughter’s age. What do I want her to know? What have I forgotten to tell her? How can I help her to avoid the heartbreak and embrace the joys?
These are the concerns that any good parent has, and this play is kind of our worst fear. But too often this is where we relegate those who haven’t navigated the hoops and obstacles of adolescence quite well enough. We don’t mean to. We don’t want anyone curled up on the locker room floor alone and afraid in an impossible situation. But there isn’t room for them, only shame. For those who find themselves in those conditions, it’s hard to feel like there really is a choice.
In full disclosure, this writer is pro-life. As the production promotes and encourages donations to Planned Parenthood, with open advocacy for abortion services availability, it might be presumed that it is not meant for me or those who share my views. But everyone loses out when we only listen to ourselves. We need to listen to the hard stories, to the women who don’t fit into the nice, neat, wholly inadequate answers only too many are quick to offer. This show didn’t just make me listen; it made me walk out wanting to do something.
DRY LAND runs till April 23rd. For more information visit fishtanktheater.