By Sophie Gilbert
Roe, which opened at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage just days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, is a modern kind of history play, a production that considers a crucial issue in American politics. But its playwright, Lisa Loomer, didn’t expect the timing of Roe to be quite so pointed, coinciding with the arrival of a new president opposed to abortion rights and a vacancy on the Supreme Court. “It’s daunting,” Loomer says. “I feel like the play has become accidentally urgent.”
But Roe isn’t a particularly polemical play, or a deliberate attempt to advocate for one side or another. It frames its story around the two women at the center of Roe v. Wade, the 1971 case that enshrined the legal right to have an abortion in American law: Sarah Weddington, the then-26-year-old attorney who argued on behalf of the plaintiff, and Jane Roe, a.k.a. Norma McCorvey, a young Texan woman in her early 20s who wanted to end her pregnancy. The actors who play the two women serve as both narrators and central characters, telling their own, sometimes opposing versions of the roles they played in a landmark judgment, and how it changed their lives. The case itself is dealt with in just a few minutes: Loomer is much more interested in the larger history of abortion in the U.S., and why, after 40-some years, public opinion on the subject is just as divided as ever.
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