“The Water Children,” Wendy MacLeod’s new play, examines controversial issues with wit and candor, taking some wildly imaginative excursions.
Megan (Wendy Makkena) is a struggling 36-year-old actress reluctantly cast in a pro-life commercial: The money and subsequent residuals are too appealing to reject, even if the job violates her free-choice principles. Indeed, 20 years earlier a teenage Megan had an abortion, and soon Megan is having disturbing dreams of the boy who would have been her son (Kevin Isola).
Despite her past, Megan becomes romantically involved with the administrator of an anti-abortion group (Jonathan Walker), allowing MacLeod to address both sides of the issue with often graphically descriptive passages. The playwright deftly fuses a sweet romantic encounter with extravagant humor and volatile conflict.
The play also includes some bizarre and amusing sidebars. Teenage Crystal (Elizabeth Bunch), who “embellishes her story until it is totally implausible,” claims she was aborted, discarded in a pail and survived, becoming an anti-abortion poster child. Michael Mastro doubles as a gay hairdresser who is HIV-positive and an Eastern priest who offers whimsical Buddhist philosophy. Joyce Reehling, in the most far-fetched vignette, appears as a fully costumed mother cat, whose kittens were taken away after six weeks.
As Megan, Makkena offers an insightful and sensitive performance, and she is joined by Walker in a tenderly played and touching first-act curtain scene. Robert Sella scores as a dangerous activist and Deirdre Lovejoy delivers several caustic barbs as Megan’s hostile lesbian roommate.
David Petrarca’s staging is fluent on a small, spare space, with sliding panels and a few pieces of black lacquered furniture providing swift transition from Manhattan to Ohio and on to somewhere in the Far East.