A pregnant teen tries to decide what to do with This Boat Called My Body | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

A pregnant teen tries to decide what to do with This Boat Called My Body 

For Youth Inquiry's allegory is didactic, but also engaging and entertaining.

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Alyssa Vera Ramos

The central image of this allegorical performance, written collectively by Quenna Lené Barrett, Christabel Donkor, Danielle Littman, Jessamyn Fitzpatrick, Clair Fuller, and Nik Zaleski and directed by Barrett and Zaleski, is a 16-year-old woman named Jane Doe. She sits on a dock, emptying the water out of a red aluminum canoe in preparation for a launch. As the title makes clear, the canoe is her body, and her journey consists of the many discoveries she makes and the changes she goes through when she finds she is pregnant and has to decide between single teen motherhood or terminating the pregnancy.

Yes, this is agitprop theatre. Remarkably, though, the creative team at For Youth Inquiry, part of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, does a terrific job of making this admittedly didactic work—which charts all the obstacles a teen faces, both legal and psychological, when trying to get an abortion on her own—engaging, and even entertaining.

Staging the piece in and around the abandoned Stearns Quarry in Palmisano Park in Bridgeport, Barrett and Zaleski fill their show with eye-pleasing spectacles—not the least of which is the sight of the protagonist canoeing across the water—and moments of no-pressure audience participation (which feel more than a little like mini breakout sessions at a workshop). Elena Victoria Feliz makes a very likable and relatable Jane Doe; she's equally believable whether she's paralyzed by doubt or standing her ground against those who don't agree with her choices.   v

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