A white woman with blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail stands in front of an office desk. She is wearing a purple turtleneck sweater and a long beige skirt, holding a sign that reads "It's a child, not a choice."
Megan McNulty as an anti-abortion protester in Title Ten at Artemisia Theatre Credit: Willow James

Int. messy Chicago apartment, unseasonably hot end of November. 

Being a theater critic can be so isolating when you don’t fit the story being told. Most of the time, I sit through shows that center on the cishet male experience or at the very least shows that don’t pass the Bechdel Test. I am not shy about how much I loathe theater that rehashes the same, tired narrative. Yet, every once in a while I get a glimpse of something new which, even then, can be struck a deadly blow if one voice demands it. 

[increasingly exasperated] 

I have a master’s degree in writing, rhetoric, and discourse with a certificate in women and gender studies. I’ve written for Ms. Magazine. I’ve worked for Planned Parenthood. I grew up Catholic. I have polycystic ovary syndrome, which means I have fertility and period issues. Title Ten at Artemisia Theatre, written and codirected by artistic director Julie Proudfoot (Willow James also directs), should have been my cup of tea. [pause] But it wasn’t. 

Title Ten
Through 12/18: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-975-8150, artemisiatheatre.org, $25-$44

[cross to center] 

Nine monologues over the course of 90 minutes. The play is a two-hander asking far too much of the two actors (Kaitlyn Cheng and Melanie McNulty) in its employ. A well-timed monologue is one thing, an excellent opportunity for epiphany, but there are some stories that are best served by dialogue. Especially with a topic like abortion, folks with uteruses spend a lot of time talking to themselves or feeling like they’re talking to a wall. When we’re given the chance to talk about Title X so openly, some of our stories are best served through an act of showing rather than telling. 

[realizes the irony of that last statement as this is a crude monologue at best]

If we’re going to tell intimate stories of tribulation, let’s really dig into them. Give audiences a full scene of a credible fearful interview between an immigration officer and an asylum-seeking mom. Allow us a chance to see the interaction not just from the side of the problematic officer. Let audiences see how harmful the process is. Parcel out monologues along with dialogue. Give us moments to really sink our teeth into. Play devil’s advocate at times, sure, but show us the pro-birthers protesting at clinics with more authenticity. 

Kaitlyn Cheng in Title Ten at Artemisia Theatre Credit Willow James

[increasing intensity] 

Give in to the vitriol, pain, heartache, and joy. Really give us the experience of what it is to exist in a world, as the text says, that demands so much of us simply for existing in these bodies. 

[hand over heart, three deep breaths]

Just let the stories really breathe.