I know it’s not proper theater criticism to say this — but Alison Leiby’s story about having an abortion does not need the critique of a cis-white man to highlight its successes. So I’ll simply tell you: go see it.
You have through June 24 left to see it at the Kennedy Center Theater Lab. I’ll even do a solid and include the link to buy tickets. There are still spots available for this show, and this show deserves to be sold out during its stop in DC.
So go see it, really. You can stop reading. We have your clicks logged.
Still here? Need additional convincing? From me?
Alison Leiby is a comedian you haven’t heard of… yet. She’s a writer for Broad City and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Her humor is personable, relatable, and charming enough to generate nonstop laughter from the audience. But she also gives the feeling that you would want to be friends with her. My colleague in attendance remarked how much she would like to grab dinner with Leiby.
The show is only peripherally about abortion. I’m pretty sure I will use the word abortion more times in this review than Leiby does in her story. The topics she talks about (spoiler-free list) go from Barbie, her mom, neurosurgeons, birds, sex education, and jeans. When she comes to the topic of her abortion, it is as anticlimactic as you wouldn’t expect, given the title of the show, and this is the crux of the show’s message: “Abortion should be anticlimactic.”
Leiby’s stories remind us with a gentle, empathetic, and very inclusive approach (she comments on her perspective as a cis white woman with blue-state access to abortion) that sharing her personal experiences with abortion is the way she finds the most effective method for removing the taboo over the topic: “The more we talk about it openly and honestly, the less of a catastrophe it is.”
She shares, in a familiar and comforting fashion, how her specific experience did not evoke a sense of drama for her, detailing how the biggest challenge was choosing what to wear. She went with leggings, as did the others in the Planned Parenthood waiting room.
The format of the show is not quite stand-up, not quite theatrical performance. This is the format of adopting comedy shows as a vehicle for storytelling, à la Hannah Gadsby stand-up. Leiby is sharing a personal story, on the one-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade being struck down by the Supreme Court. Against this backdrop, Leiby ends the show by suggesting that we should open up the conversation for others to share their stories on abortion.
This is an audience that is receptive to her message. This isn’t an audience that needs to have its mind changed. Leiby acknowledges these privileges in her show: “This is not the experience for women in red states, or women of color or people who may not have the money or time to travel across the country for this procedure.” And maybe Leiby does not intend to change anyone’s mind. She’s just telling a story.
This is an important story to share. I hope to hear Leiby’s message spread far and wide.
Running Time: 70 minutes.
Alison Leiby: Oh God, A Show About Abortion plays through June 24, 2023, in the Theater Lab at Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets (starting at $39) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.
The program for Oh God, A Show About Abortion is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff. If you prefer to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. See Kennedy Center’s complete COVID Safety Plan here.