Private Passage | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Private Passage


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PRIVATE PASSAGE, Stage Left Theatre. In the bad old days a middle-class young woman "in trouble" had three options: get married and keep the baby, risk an illegal and potentially life-threatening abortion, or go into retreat until the baby was born and surrendered to an adoption agency. Legalized abortion, improved and more widely available contraception, and sex education have vastly affected unwanted pregnancies, at least among the middle class, but you'd never know it from Private Passage. Despite its contemporary setting, the two sisters who must confront the consequences of their fertility find their courses of action fraught with anguish, suffering, and the dangers of a self-induced abortion gruesome enough to have been written by the right-to-lifers.

This comic-book caveat might still have worked as flat-out propaganda (though in support of what is uncertain--total abstinence, perhaps), but playwrights Louise Bylicki and James Serpento undermine whatever arguments they might be making by alternating scenes of grim, hyperemotional realism with artsy-cutesy production numbers: dialogue written in quasi-Dr. Seuss rhyming couplets, a sex-ed class with a drill-sergeant instructor, medical-legal bureaucrats portrayed as the Marx Brothers. These Brechtian devices further reduce our sympathy for characters apparently unable to deal with a problem regularly resolved by thousands of American families. A hardworking cast deliver performances more intelligent than the material warrants but cannot rescue this inexcusably naive, ultimately self-defeating script.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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