Theater review by Raven Snook
In comedy, timing is everything—and the timing of Alison Leiby's Oh God, A Show About Abortion is so perfect, you may wonder whether she facilitated the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade leak as the ultimate marketing ploy. But the current judicial chaos is just another illustration of why this politically savvy stand-up has spent three years incubating a solo show about reproductive rights. Her goal is to discuss and destigmatize abortion, and her penetrating comic treatise seriously slays.
The show is powerfully personal. But for Leiby, who knew that she didn't want children and was able to access and afford an abortion at age 35, the actual procedure she underwent was not really that big a deal, and it only takes up about 10 minutes of her tale. Her real subjects are the lack of meaningful discourse on the subject of abortion, the patriarchy's policing of women's bodies and society's compulsion to categorize everyone with a uterus as a mother or not a mother. That may sound more like a lecture than a laugh riot, but Leiby—a co-producer of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a joke doctor for Broad City's Ilana Glazer, who's presenting this show—knows how to pack a punchline. With endearing offhandedness, she goofs on ignorant male doctors, sketchy one-night stands and her mother; pokes fun at her own flaws (like spending way too much on shoes and plants); imagines candid conversations about menstruation and honest commercials for birth control; and lambastes the media for linking a woman's value and fulfillment to her ability to breed.
Although Leiby spends most of the show center stage with a microphone, quipping to the converted, director Lila Neugebauer helps Oh God, A Show About Abortion transcend its comedy-club origins to become a compelling journey with clear emotional beats; an unexpected story about a pre–Roe v. Wade pregnancy is particularly powerful. As hilarious as Leiby is, she does more than induce belly laughs.
Oh God, A Show About Abortion. Cherry Lane Theatre (Off Broadway). By Alison Leiby. Directed by Lila Neugebauer. With Leiby. Running time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission.