Apple Tree Theatre.

Plays like Oleanna and Extremities act out ideas--sexual harassment, revenge for rape--with a vengeance, a test to see if you can abide them. Keely and Du, written by the pseudonymous Jane Martin, powerfully fleshes out the abortion controversy by pushing the antichoice argument to a life-hating extreme--the persecution of the mother for the sake of the unborn.

Keely, recently raped by her alcoholic ex-husband, is violated again: kidnapped by a "Christian" antiabortion sect called Operation Retrieval, she's reduced to a brood mare, forced to give birth to a child she can't afford who will be adopted by a family to which it was never meant to belong. Family values indeed. But the bond forged between the handcuffed Keely and her middle-aged captor, the decent Du, proves stronger than ideology and ignorance. Like all wrenching ethical choices, this remains a no-win situation; all that can be salvaged from Keely's plight (and Du's) is the compassion that keeps us human.

Though Martin stacks the deck--Du needn't be so kind nor Keely such a victim--she deals straightforwardly with a quicksand subject, putting the moment before the message. So does Gary Griffin in his tensile staging, fueled by Kate Buddeke's raw-boned, heartbreaking portrayal of Keely and Mary Ann Thebus's maternal Du. Jack McLaughlin-Gray, playing the punitive pastor who sees babies as a punishment for sex, positively sputters with patriarchal prejudice and his cowardly convictions. Marring their efforts is a forced, damaging intermission that betrays the play's rhythm and intensity.

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