The Water Children, a play by Wendy MacLeod, is about a 36-year-old unmarried actress named Megan who is offered the leading role in a series of anti-abortion commercials for a pro-life organization. Accepting the role becomes a complicated moral decision when she must choose between her own morals and her need to pay the rent.
The decision is further complicated by the fact that she once had an abortion. As she struggles to make up her mind, she is forced to confront her own conscience and feelings of guilt and to face her financial needs, bringing to light an example of the often compromising situations women are forced to encounter.
While the play begins with a topic that is one of the most controversial of our times, it does not succeed in challenging the audience beyond the same old and tired arguments: The hypocrisy of pro-life organizations who claim to defend lives while acting in a violent manner toward those who do not agree with their views; the fact that it is ok for a woman who has been raped to have an abortion, but not one who is too young and incapable of providing her child with a decent life; and the idea that men should be allowed to pass laws concerning a woman’s body.
Jackie Schmillen’s performance helps the production immensely, as did Marcos Sanchez’, who plays a gay hairdresser and adds some deeply-needed spice to the story. Elise Wincorn, also comes to the rescue by playing a talking cat. In this slightly psychedelic scene, the cat opinionates on the fate of her own kittens who have been taken away by her owner, blurring the line between fiction and reality and providing evidence that MacLeod did not completely forget to play with her imagination.
The romantic relationship between Megan and Randall (Doug Ghizzoni), the leader of the pro-life organization, is less than convincing as one wonders why on earth they are attracted to each other.
One aspect that was much appreciated was the introduction to the Japanese perspective on abortion, from which the play takes its title. In Buddhist mythology, the water children are unborn souls who are not ready to be welcomed into this world and are returned to the spirit world in order to await a more propitious time to be born.
This introduces the idea that it is the souls in the spirit world that chose their parents and not the other way around. This alternative approach to the issue of abortion is an important one to consider- especially for women who feel that they are nothing but hopeless and unheard pawns in the political struggle between those who feel they own the right to define what is right and what is wrong for a woman to choose.
While The Water Children does a good job at showing the struggles of conscience, guilt, fear and the isolation of women who choose to abort a child, it needs to take a more challenging approach and give the audience a bit more credit.
The play will be showing thru March 2 at the University of Miami Ring Theatre.