By: Ronnie Ruff
Midwives Round House
Sometimes during a life threatening illness people feel the need to unburden their conscience of past mistakes and transgressions. Enter Midwives, the latest production from Bethesda’s Round House Theatre. The play is adapted from the Oprah Book Club selection, written by Chris Bohjalian and adapted for the stage by Dana Yeaton. Bohjalian has created a powerful look at how, stricken with cancer and fighting for life, a New England midwife contemplates her own mortality while confronting ghosts that haunt her every waking day. On a stormy New England night during a troublesome delivery a young woman dies while giving birth with the assistance of a midwife… or does she? Asking for the sharpest knife in the house, Sibyl Danforth (Alma Cuervo) the midwife, proceeds to do an emergency cesarean delivery that she is not licensed or trained to do.
Years later, her life threatened by cancer she receives chemotherapy in a Vermont hospital room where she is visited by her daughter Connie (Stephanie Burden), a medical student who is studying to be a obstetrician. Through a series of well staged flashbacks and the aid of Sibyl’s journals they re-live that horrible night and the manslaughter trial that followed. With the help of her daughter she is able to release herself from the guilt that grips her existence.
Midwives is staged on an attractive and functional set designed by James Kronzer that makes use of a shadow box to frame a small hospital room with a bed, functional furnishings and wheel chair where Sibyl is getting her chemotherapy. Large wintry screens adorn either side of the set. Mathew Richards adds subtle lighting changes between the flashback scenes that express the time transformation perfectly. Martian Desjardins’ sound design is lush and well conceived working well within the play’s framework.
Everyone in the cast delivers a strong performance but Ms. Cuervo especially shines with a natural dry wit when dramatizing her character’s illness and portrays a tenacious will to reach closure that makes Midwives the pleasure it is. Her consistent steady delivery of emotional lines expressed great acting skill — it was gratifying to watch her sway the mood of scenes from light humor to serious dramatic discourse as if it were child’s play.
Midwives is an interesting, thought provoking play that does not drag the audience into issue laden territory that would otherwise complicate what is a well written adaptation of Chris Bohjalian’s story. Round House and Mark Ramont have created a masterful well produced evening of theatre worthy of your consideration.