Play explores the passion that surrounds abortion issue

Doug Joiner would not mind protesters outside of Le Chat Noir this Friday when the theater premiers “Keely & Du.” It is part of the balanced discussion about abortion that the play creates.

“I love this play, and it hurts me because each side has a point. These are important literary debates,” said Joiner, director of the play. “How many times do we step outside out own perceptions? Are we living with the illusion of knowledge, or are we periodically examining our own convictions?”

The play isn’t about abortion, the four-person cast insists. It’s about conviction. Abortion is merely the emotional framework upon which the drama hangs.

In this passionate and paranoid thriller, a radical pro-life group kidnaps Keely (Courtney Prouty) to stop her from aborting a pregnancy conceived when her ex-husband, Cole (Krys Bailey), raped her. Walter (Rick Davis), the group’s pastor, tells her that she is one of four women being held captive across the nation to force them to carry their pregnancies to term.

Keely is handcuffed to a bed and cared for by Du (Sharon Brooks), a kindly retired nurse. What transpires is both riveting and revolting, and emotionally illustrated by visuals from local filmmaker Duane Brown.

Walter and Cole are the bookends of this debate, the former passionate in his piety — “eaten up with messianic zeal,” as Davis described — the latter unapologetic in his depravity. “I hate this guy,” Bailey said. “Every time this man hits the stage, it’s bad juju all around.”

The real focus in on the title characters who, while forced to interact, diverge from the social script set forth by the pro-choice/ pro-life political action committees. They make their way down a twisted path to understanding, but not agreement.

“[Du] has her reasons for feeling the way she does. But she stands by her convictions and does not back down,” Brooks said. Likewise, Keely’s hectic life — working two jobs and taking care of her invalid father — leaves her unable to support a child financially or emotionally.

“She has been in an abusive marriage, but she did get out. She’s strong to a point. But she wants to be rid of the results of her husband raping her,” Prouty said.

This journey is not a tiptoe through the tulips. Nothing about “Keely & Du” is easy to watch, although there are moments of lightness to temper the dark debate. Prouty and Brooks deliver rich, nuanced and natural dialogue, even within the stops and starts of rehearsal. And in the end, Le Chat Noir’s production was never intended to be about abortion. It is not a morality play. Writer Jane Martin refuses to politicize the issue or take sides. And with the final word in the play, she leaves the question open even wider than when the lights come up on the first scene.

“Why?” both Keely and Du ask. Martin refuses to answer this for us.

Enter to win two tickets to the March 8 showing of “Keely and Du.” Simply e-mail your name and contact information to stacey.hudson@metrospirit.com.

Le Chat Noir will present “Keely and Du” on March 2-3, March 8-10 and March 15-17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 706-722-3322 or visit lcnaugusta.com.

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