“Gabriel: A Polemic” Review
By: Amy Gu
American discussions on abortion (unlike those of my heritage country China) do not rest upon the question of physical survival. Abortion questions in American cannot dissipate by calculating the ratio of available resources such as labor and breathable air to the number of children per family.
Instead, American abortion debates cloud an eclectic subjective cluster of spiritual and philosophical underpinnings that make up the great American mixed salad. No, I refer not to a salad of leafy greens drenched in a unifying salad dressing, but a greatly divided salad of fridge magnets that cling to and repulse each other at varying degrees.
“Gabriel: a Polemic” grabs a sample of this warring salad, peppers in a touch of comic relief (i.e. a whipped cream fight scene and the innocent yet troubled character Brenda), and places it in the arena-like Jones Theater. Watching Gabriel is to put away our own polarized ideals and upbringings regarding abortion and finally experience a conversation about abortion without getting tangled in its painful divisions ourselves.
Starting pitch-black, the stage and audience sits effectively obscured just like the main characters’ spiritual and emotional state. As a spotlight reveals the silhouette of a woman, the play immediately electrocutes the audience a raw and painfully realistic, identifiable plot and doesn’t stop until the final bow.
The scenes take place in the uncannily crafted set of a polished, panache home. The characters Susan and Jennifer and their sisters-in-Christ Louise and Brenda skirt a conversation much less pleasant than the dining room in which they sit. The dialogue is uncomfortably music-free and soundtracked only by the deceivingly gentle clinking of silverware and glassware. As the women delicately nibble on their salads, they rip open, cleanse, and bandage each other’s emotional and spiritual wounds of rape, infertility, miscarriage, and crises of faith.
Perfectly cast, each character emits a complex yet neatly bound web of naiveté, slap-worthy annoyingness, insurmountable grief, wittiness, empathy, and most prevailingly, faith in each other. The pristine yet eerily clean staging creates exactly the lifestyle fallaciously promised to the pious, acquiescent, abstinent Christian woman. Even without sufficient familiarity with any Christian texts, one will experience the devastating crumbling of spiritual foundations, saved by devotion to one’s sisters and faith in womanhood.
Gabriel: a Polemic from start to finish unsettles, challenges, and ultimately enlightens through a shattering of conventional ideals (especially for those so closely tied to the Methodist affiliation of our university). The unhesitating impact into the obscured taboo topic is not at all unfamiliar to those of us in a community dedicated to lifelong learning.