With Dry Land, Company One again proves that no other theater company in Boston has its finger on the pulse of culture and society quite like it does. Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel, who was a 21-year-old Yale University student when she wrote the play, Dry Land premiered last fall in a Colt Coeur production at Off-Off-Broadway’s HERE Arts Center. The reviews were glowing, and it earned the coveted “Critics’ Pick” stamp of approval from both the New York Times and Time Out New York.
Set almost entirely in the girls’ locker room at a Florida high school, the play introduces Amy and Ester, newish friends who are both on the swim team. Amy is pregnant with a child that she doesn’t want, and she enlists Ester to help her get rid of it. In Florida, minors must obtain their parents’ consent to get an abortion, and that isn’t an option for Amy. Instead, she’s going to do it herself. The play is simultaneously uncomfortable, hilarious, and important: Layered portrayals of female relationships play out amidst wrenchingly stark circumstances.
“Dry Land is about the courage and resiliency of two teenage girls trying to deal with a very difficult situation alone. And it is about the journey of a friendship that develops from something new and awkward to one of deep trust, vulnerability, and kindness. I hope audiences will experience the profound friendship that develops with the two young women,” said director Steven Bogart. “From the beginning, we knew we had to approach the play as realism and try to avoid sentimentality. There isn’t anywhere to hide in a sterile high school locker room, and we approached our work embracing that feeling of exposure.”
Once again showing off Company One’s gift for timeliness, the stakes of Dry Land are perhaps even higher now than they were when the play premiered last year, due to the current witch-hunt of Planned Parenthood. We are shown the honesty and the horrors of a DIY abortion in a climate where women’s health issues continue to be threatened. “The current situation with women’s rights in our country has made our work feel more intense and necessary. These are courageous young women trying to take care of their future,” said Bogart. Actress Alex Lonati, who plays Reba, a schoolmate and pseudo-friend of Amy and Ester, agrees: “This play is always important, but especially now that Planned Parenthood’s funding is up for debate. Access to information and resources is incredibly necessary, and I believe this play and the struggles that our heroine goes through is the perfect example of why that is.”
To enhance the audience’s experience, Company One has a handful of community partners that will participate in post-show conversations after virtually every performance. Partners such as the Boston Doula Project, Planned Parenthood, and Peer Health Exchange will work together with the artists to engage the audience further and deepen their understanding of the show’s issues and artistic vision. “Our partners also come from such varied backgrounds—we have abortion doulas, adolescent behavior experts, a sports psychologist, women’s rights activists, teen health educators, a competitive swimmer—there are so many points of entry to this play,” says dramaturg Jessie Baxter. “With Planned Parenthood in the headlines so much, I’m even more thrilled we are partnering with them on the show—our audiences get the chance to talk to them directly about how the play connects to these big-picture issues. I’m always the most excited when we can connect our work to the world outside the theater in really tangible ways, and we have a great opportunity to do that with this show.”