Albany Civic Theater production tackles battle over abortion

Kathleen Carey and Kate Hans play the lead roles in Albany Civic Theater's "Keely and Du," a play ab
Kate Hans, left, is Du and Kathleen Carey is Keely in the ACT production.
Kate Hans, left, is Du and Kathleen Carey is Keely in the ACT production.

Categories: Life & Arts

When Katie Weinberg decided to submit “Keely and Du” for the Albany Civic Theater’s 2008-2009 season, she wasn’t sure the idea would be well-received.

“I honestly felt like it might not be chosen,” said Weinberg, who is directing Jane Martin’s 1994 Pulitzer Prize-nominated play opening Friday at 8 p.m. at Albany Civic.

“When I read it, I thought it was the kind of play that might be put on at a college, not a community theater, because of the controversial nature of the show. But I think Albany Civic is trying to do more contemporary plays, more of a mix of contemporary and the classics, and I was very happy they decided to do it.”

’Keely and Du’

WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 23

HOW MUCH: $15

MORE INFO: 462-1297

The play is about the battle over abortion rights and stars Kathleen Carey and Kate Hans in the two lead roles. Carey plays a young woman named Keely who was planning to have an abortion before being kidnapped by a right-wing Christian organization. Hans plays Du, a nurse whose job it is to take care of Keely.

Powerful drama

“It’s a very powerful play, and when I first read it, I imagined myself directing it,” said Weinberg. “It’s been a great experience, and what made it even better was the talent that came out for the audition.”

Weinberg has performed onstage at Albany Civic in various shows, but is directing her first main stage play. Working with Hans and Carey has made the job easier, although Carey was a late replacement for the woman originally cast as Keely.

“She’s a veteran actress — so we knew she could pull it off,” Weinberg said of Carey. “She’s also worked with Kate before — so they know each other very well.”

Carey played Hans’ daughter in an Albany Civic production of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” in 2003, and it was that experience that helped her make a quick decision when asked to come to the rescue of “Keely and Du.”

“I had just done a staged reading with Theater Voices, and then I thought I was free and clear for a while,” said Carey, who, while synonymous with Albany Civic, has also worked at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham and The Theater Barn in New Lebanon. “But when Katie called and asked me, I realized that Kate and I worked very well together and that would probably make things a lot easier. We have kind of a shorthand together.”

The play itself was another good reason Carey said yes to filling in. She was on the Albany Civic selection committee last year when it was presented for the 2008-2009 season and read it before giving her seal of approval.

“I voted to put it on our schedule because I thought it was a very good play,” said Carey. “It’s a tough play because of the controversial issue, but I like it because it’s not heavy-handed on either side. It’s about the relationship between these two women and the bond they form.”

“My hope is that conservatives and liberals would meet in the lobby after the show and will be able to have a heartfelt discussion over the issue,” said Hans. “After watching this play, they might have a better understanding of each other’s position. I don’t think the play is going to change anyone’s mind, and I don’t think that was the purpose.”

“Keely and Du” premiered in 1993 at the Actors Theatre in Louisville and enjoyed some off-Broadway success in New York. Many people believe that Jane Martin is a pseudonym for Jon Jory, the artistic director at the Actors Theatre in Louisville. Jory, who has accepted awards on Martin’s behalf, denies the claim.

The play is meant to provoke discussion,” said Hans. “To me, an important aspect of the writing is that each side is respected. Much of the time, you’ll watch a play and there’ll obviously be a heavy-handed message to it. This play isn’t like that. People don’t change each other’s beliefs, but they do change the way they feel about each other.”

Adding to the controversial nature of the show is the fact that Keely’s character was also the victim of a rape and abuse on the part of her husband.

“This show is definitely for mature audiences,” said Weinberg. “I would say that teenagers who are 16, 17 or older would be fine with the show, but I don’t think it’s subject matter for anyone younger than that.”

Also in the cast are Dan Stott as Keely’s ex-husband, Steve King as the right-wing conservative who planned Keely’s kidnapping, and Amy Durant as the prison guard who makes sure she doesn’t escape.

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