“Hit me again.”
Amy, played by Jamie Ascher, a snarky swimmer with a secret passion for writing, addresses Ester, played by Drew Mancini, a shy high school senior striving for perfection in the pool. The two stand in the intimate space in front of two benches next to a single row of blue lockers. Ester hits Amy in the stomach. As the exchange between the two students continues, with a little bit of inference from Amy’s constant touching of her stomach and odd requests for Ester such as “Sit on me,” it quickly becomes apparent that the reasoning for the punches is that Amy is pregnant. Carrying out the pregnancy to term never presents itself as an option for Amy; her mind is made up from day one, and there is simply no other option for her or her future at this point but abortion. Throughout the course of the play, “Dry Land”, Amy, with the help of her sidekick, Ester, and through a couple of D.I.Y. abortion methods, hopes to reclaim her future.
However, “Dry Land”, is not an abortion play; in fact, the characters never use the word “abortion.” The Thalian Blackfriars, a student run theater organization, goal was for “Dry Land” to be a play about friendship. “The first thing my director, Geoffrey Douglas, said for our first rehearsal was that I don’t want this to be an abortion play,” Jamie Ascher who portrays Amy and who is a third-year Communications Studies major from Roswell commented. “Yes, it’s a play that involves it, but he wanted to really instill in us that the play was about friendship. It shows how two girls went from being strangers, one of them kind of using the other to help her get rid of this problem, to Amy actually being heartbroken over the fact that Ester has to leave for college.” Friendship is a complicated entity that causes Amy and Ester constant struggle, for as their friendship develops, more issues begin to arise.
As the play progresses, you learn more about the lives of Amy and Ester like you would if you had befriended them off the street. They’re getting to know one another for the first time during the course of Amy’s unwanted pregnancy. The dialogue between the characters is honest and inquisitive, a tone that comes with being in high school and getting to know someone for the first time. They talk of their futures, Ester’s involving swimming for a college and Amy’s involving fancy cheese and books, which signifies a better life for her outside of being a mom and a small town.
The more time the two spend together, the more they begin to open up and rely on one another. The walls that each of them hide behind start to come down little by little. Ester tells Amy of her suicide attempt at one point–– a detail that is not delved into as much as I had wanted. As a matter of fact, “Dry Land,” does not touch on Ester’s issues as much as Amy’s, which is my one complaint about the show. I wish I had gotten to know whom Ester was a little more outside of what we’re told. Ester remains as sort of a mystery, but Amy shows a little of her vulnerability when she shares her dreams of becoming of writer, which is a detail no one knows about Amy.
As easily as the walls can come down, they can go right back up. “Amy bullies Ester after she reveals to Reba[, played by Hannah Martin,] that Amy likes to write,” Jamie Ascher commented: “She betrayed Amy’s trust and it shows that just because you have an emerging friendship with someone that there are still these walls that we don’t necessarily break down until there’s been enough bonding.” The back and forth conflict between Amy and Ester keeps the new and vulnerable feeling of the relationship. If the two had just came out and shared everything about themselves, then the relationship would not feel real because people do not just open right up on a first encounter.
When the play comes to a close the air is heavy. Abortion is not a topic people are normally confronted with on a daily basis, and now they’ve been placed in front of a stage that is doing just that. The play really makes you question how you see the world, because no matter what, life goes on. For Amy and for Ester, life goes on. Amy has to put this traumatic experience behind her. She has to go right back to focusing on school, extracurricular activities and everything else teenagers worry about. She has no time to recover, which reflects the fast pace of the real world. Life doesn’t stop moving.
“Dry Land” is beautifully crafted. “I didn’t know from reading the script the first time that it could be that great,” Jamie Ascher remarked. “The first time I read the script I was like what did I just get myself into, but it was so much more heartfelt and touching than I originally thought. I originally hated Amy. She was so rude, but you gotta dig under that. She’s got stuff going on.” The Thalian Blackfriars create an intense and powerful connection with the characters through the intimate size of the stage in the five-row Cellar Theater; I felt like I was in the locker room with Amy and Ester, like I was a part of their story to the point where I cannot help but hope that Amy and Ester remain friends. I hope they stay in contact and find the lives that they deserve because at the end of the day these characters are all of us.
We all go through struggles and hard times; we’ve all been through high school and the fear of being whom we truly are so I hope, maybe more for myself than anything, that these characters found better lives.