Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

RoeAsolo Repertory Theatre
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Broadway Our Way and Little Women

Terri Weagant, Bri Sudia, and Colleen LaFeber
Photo by Cliff Roles
Asolo Repertory Theatre's final repertory production this season is Roe by Lisa Loomer. Developed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of its "American Revolutions" series, this play is a tapestry of 50 years of history surrounding women's rights to reproductive choice and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The play is bit similar in style to two plays about LBJ's presidency (All the Way and The Great Society), also part of this series at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and produced at Asolo Rep in 2016 and 2017. It also owes a debt to Berthold Brecht's epic theater.

The first act is a bit dry as it narrates the history of the court case and, in a strong desire for historical accuracy, characters frequently break the fourth wall and discuss discrepancies with the audience. The second act is about the aftermath and is more emotional, drawing the audience in more. It shows us the deteriorating relationship between Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, and Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the case before the United States Supreme Court, Norma's brush with fundamental religion, and her change to being "pro-life." A beautifully imagined scene in which a young black woman badgers Norma and Sarah for some sense of truth about the fundamental issues around abortion gives the audience some idea of how controversial this issue continues to be.

Terri Weagant is sensational as Norma McCorvey, capturing the arc of the undereducated, poverty stricken woman who does find at least a sense of her place in the world around her. Bri Sudia is excellent portraying as Sarah Weddington, a first generation feminist; in the second act, we get to see how underappreciated those women were later on.

The rest of the cast are excellent playing a wide variety of people. Standouts include Jade Turner as Roxy, the young black woman in the late scene described above, David Lively in several older male roles, Jordan Brown as adoption attorney Henry McCluskey and other roles, and Nate Burger as Reverend Flip Benham and other roles. Students Kedren Spencer, Colleen LaFeber and Mary Ellen Everett from the third year class of Asolo Conservatory contribute greatly. Gigi Spagnolo plays two little girls, Melissa and Emily, very well.

This production is based on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, directed by Bill Rauch, and is recreated very well by Chicago-based director Lavina Jadhwani. Scenic design by Rachel Hauck is a simple unit set, with magnificent projections by Wendall K. Harrington. Costume design is by Tracy Dorman and lighting design by Tess James.

This season the Repertory season at Asolo Rep has been quite varied, with many different styles, and I imagine that most people preferred some productions over others. Roe appealed to my interest in historical politics and certainly held my interest through its two and a half hours.

Roe, through April 15, 2018, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit

Cast (in order of appearance):
Sarah Weddington: Bri Sudia*
Norma McCorvey: Terri Weagant*
Aileen/Barbara/Uma/Pregnant Woman 3/Ensemble: Kedren Spencer**
Linda Coffee/Judy/Pregnant Woman 1/Ensemble: Colleen LaFeber
Helen/Pregnant Woman 2/Ronda/Ensemble: Mary Ellen Everett
Ofelia/Connie Gonzalez: Michelle Aravena*
Doctor Kennedy/Henry Wade/Justice Blackmun/Ensemble: David Lively*
Henry McCluskey/Robert Flowers/Abortion Doctor/Ensemble: Jordan Brown*
Ron Weddington/Floyd/Flip Benham/Ensemble: Nate Burger*
Melissa/Emily: Gig Spagnolo< br>Roxy: Jade Turner
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association
**=Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association