Stage Left HERE WHERE IT'S SAFE Review - Where Is It Safe?

Which is the real mother?

Here Where It's Safe seems like it would be straightforward enough. We've all heard of childless couples who are so desperate to have a child they "hire" a surrogate.  It's not common but not unheard of. The big difference for Zach and Abbie is that they want to make a safe choice.  So they "hire" a 19-year old Indian surrogate.

Abbie (Cat Dean) prays at her shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary even though she's a "recovering Catholic"

It all seems to work as well as something this awkward can work.  Abbie, a recovering Catholic reverts to prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Beena (Mouzam Makkar) prays, too.

And Beena retreats to her Hindu shrine to pray for the baby.

After they deliver the ovum and sperm, and impregnate Beena, Zach and Abbie place her in a clean, safe hostel.  (The sanitized euphemism for this is "Medical Tourism.") They are encouraged to return to the US until Beena, their "baby oven," is close to delivery.

But Abbie wants to be with Beena (to experience motherhood?).  As she becomes increasingly more entangled with her, Abbie learns of Beena's desperation, her need of a safe place.

Abbie (Cat Dean)and Beena (Mouzam Makkar) dance

They thought they were empowering her.  Are they really "colonizing her womb?"  Exploiting her or giving her a way out? I strongly suggest you experience this play to draw your own conclusion and become drawn into their dilemma.  

Here Where it’s Safe , a world premiere of a new play by award-winning playwright and Stage Left ensemble member M.E.H. Lewis kept us completely engaged in their tangle of lives and decisions and mutual desperation. Yet, it wasn't a dark, draining, depressing story.  It was surprisingly lighthearted and filled with hope.

Abbie (Cat Dean), Zach (Cory Krebsbach), Beena (Mouzam Makkar) and Uma (Anita Chadwaney) make plans

The staff designed an organic theater experience. William Anderson's set design transformed the space and created ambiance so Indian I'm surprised we didn't smell curry. Astonishing work with plywood!

M.E.H. Lewis (Playwright)is a towering talent whose gift with complex human relations is remarkable as it is compassionate. The internationally produced author of the award-winning plays Burying the Bones (Stage Left, 2004, Jeff Nominee), Fellow Travellers (Stage Left, 2006, Jeff Award winner for Best New Work) and Creole (InFusion Theatre, 2007), Ms. Lewis is a two-time I llinois Arts Council Fellow, and winner of the Julie Harris Competition, the Dayton Playhouse Competition, the Tremain Fellowship, and the PEN Trans-Atlantic Award.

In addition to Here Where It's Safe, her most recent work includes Musica Mundana, workshopped with InFusion Theatre, Small World, commissioned by Solano Theatre, and Return to Haifa, commissioned by Next Theatre. She is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, a founding member of the Stone Soup Collective, and a member of the Dramatists Guild

Scott Bishop (Director) is a Chicago-based theatre teacher and director. His recent directing credits include Safe in LeapFest 6, The Deer And The Antelope Play at Riverfront Theatre in Rockford, IL, Arsenic And Old Lace at SummerPlace Theatre, How Gertrude Stormed The Philosophers Club at Bailiwick Theatre, Everything In 150 Pages for the n.u.f.a.n. Ensemble, and a staged reading of Why'd You Make Me Wear That Joe? for the International Festival of Women Playwrights. Scott holds an M.A. in Theatre from Northwestern University.

THE CAST includes SLT ensemble members Cat Dean (Abbie), Cory Krebsbach (Zach), and Kate Black (Jem), as well as Mouzam Makkar (Beena), and Anita Chandwaney (Uma). Each member of this marvelous cast did a fine job of bringing this complex issue to life.

THE STAFF includes SLT ensemble members Adam Kohn (sound design), Mark Pracht (assistant direction) and Zev Valancy (dramaturgy), with guest artists Jazzma Pryor (stage management), Elizabeth Flauto (costume design), William Anderson (scenic design), Jessica Harpenau (lighting design), Heather Ho (properties design), and Alex Braatz (technical direction).  Produced by Artistic Director Vance Smith.

Founded in 1982, Stage Left Theatre is committed to nurturing voices for the American theatre by developing and producing plays that raise debate and challenge perspectives on political and social issues. Stage Left strives to bring high-quality new work and world premieres to the Chicago stage. Over the last seven years, the Joseph Jefferson Committee has honored Stage Left world premieres with six nominations and three awards for Best New Work.

LeapFest 7 – First Night: Tuesday, June 8 at 7:30 PM; Runs: June 10 – June 26
See what’s next in Chicago Theatre.

Five new politically-minded plays will “take the leap” towards production in the three week event. Each play will be presented in rotating repertory, and performances are followed by a discussion with the playwright and director.

Here Where It’s Safe runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM from 2/25/10 through 4/3/10. Tickets are $22 on Fridays and Sundays, $25 on Saturdays, and Pay-What-You-Can (with a suggested amount of $20) on Thursdays.

Student Rush tickets are 50% off any remaining tickets ten minutes before show (if available), and senior and group discounts are also available.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 773.883.8830 or online at

Stage Left Theatre is located at 3408 N. Sheffield Ave. in Chicago. Street, metered and paid lot parking is available. The theatre is handicapped and CTA accessible via the Belmont El (Red & Brown) & Addison El (Red) stops.

Photos: Johnny Knight

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