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Freedom Isnít Free Itís bleak.

Freedom Isnít Free

Itís bleak. Itís often uncomfortable to watch. Itís bloody. Itís about what a motherís love will carry her to do.

Fucking A, at the Public, is a dark brew of classic tragedy (Medea), Brecht (Mother Courage) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter). There arenít many surprises, but there are some wonderful performances in a piece that falls into the ďtheater that makes you squirmĒ canon.

It opens in a small town in a small country in the middle of nowhere. Hester Smith comes in for her ritual clean-up after a nightís work. A candle is lit. Meat hooks and hoses hang from the catwalk above. The blood is washed off the latex gloves and her collection of medical instruments (perhaps last seen in Dead Ringers?) are hosed off and dropped (clank, clank) into a metal bucket for the next customer. Sheís a modern Hester Prynne, but the A she wears isnít embroidered on her smock, itís branded onto her breast Ö and the smock is cut open, by law, so that everyone can see. She is an abortionist, not an adulterer. Her services are not illegal, but still condemened to be out the outskirts of the civilized world. She is a necessary evil, performs a function that is simultaneously good and bad. She toils to save gold coins to secure her son's freedom. He has been, she believes, wrongly imprisoned for a minor crime, accused by the wife of her small town's mayor.

I think the standout of the show is S. Epatha Merkerson. Her Hester is so weighed down by the world Ö her profession, her unrelenting quest to secure her sonís freedom. Mos Def was eerily childlike as the Monster, Hesterís son who has escaped from prison. Peter Geretyís Butcher was very touching (notwithstanding the none-too-subtle matching bloody aprons and parallels between his and Hesterís profession).

Perhaps the show tries to address too much Ė abortion, the justice system, societyís justification of hurting those whoíve been accused of hurting others. How far removed are we from a bunch of redneck hunters who will track down human "low life" in the name of justice and sport? At least they didn't eat what they kill .... "that would be a bit much."

Itís a little self-aware Ė but isnít all Brechtian theater? Perhaps itís a little to oversimplified Ė but isnít that the heart of fable and myth ... a simple story with a deeper message?

Like The Handmaidís Tale, this is a story that youíre drawn into and upon leaving, are thankful that itís not the way the world really is. Yet. I'm sure I'll reread Ms. Atwood somewhere down the road. I'm glad to have seen Fucking A, but don't know that I need to go there again.