Life choices

Keely and Du

Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre

1901 P St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 444-8209

Rated 4.0

Kolt Run Creations’ first production sets a high standard for a local debut. In selecting Jane Martin’s Keely and Du, director Lisa Thew and company certainly took a big bite. The good news is that it wasn’t too big to chew.

Keely and Du is “about” abortion in the same way that Moby Dick is about a whale. Set in a basement, the play’s intentional claustrophobia puts a great deal of pressure on the actors. The Bible-believing pro-lifers suffer from tunnel vision, but they don’t lack compassion (even if it is misdirected), while arguments for the right to choose abortion are offered in all their painful complexity. But the play is character-based, not issue-driven.

Kelley Ogden’s Keely maintains a level of quiet rage and makes use of facial expression and vocal range to play a wild rollercoaster of emotions—most of the time while handcuffed to a bed. That’s a tough act to pull off, and Keely emerges as both frustrating and admirable. Shelly Sandford brings dignity to Du’s fundamentalist beliefs, along with an uncertainty that takes her beyond a stereotypical anti-abortion activist.

Tim Sapunor’s performance as Walter, the pastor in charge, is revelatory. Rather than play a bombastic villain—a choice that would diminish both the role and the play—Sapunor uses a soft touch, resulting in a far more complex character with a sense of entitlement. Most of the violence in Keely and Du occurs off-stage, but it’s an emotionally powerful production that might be difficult for some audiences. That difficulty only draws attention to how respectfully and honestly Thew and the players demonstrate what we have to learn about ourselves from such violence.