Keely and Du


Photo via the Theatre UNO Facebook page

Keely (Emily Bagwill), Du (Claudia Suire) and Walter (Patrick Hunter) share one of many heated exchanges in the play “Keely & Du,” which concluded its five-day run on Sunday, Feb.

Demi Guillory, Reporter

The first of two plays scheduled at UNO for the spring 2019 season wrapped last weekend. Keely & Du took center stage in the Robert Nims Theatre for five days beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and closing on Sunday, Feb. 17. The play, presented by UNO Theatre, was written by Jane Martin and directed by L. Kalo Gow.

The year is 1993 when the play begins, and Keely (Emily Bagwill) finds herself trapped and imprisoned in a foreign basement somewhere in Rhode Island. She has been raped by her ex-husband, Cole (Ja’Quan Monroe-Henderson), and is three months pregnant. Du (Claudia Suire) is the first person Keely meets after becoming conscious following her abduction. Suffice to say, their first encounter—and thereby the first scene and much of the play—is a tense, dramatic one. Keely slowly wakes up disoriented, but immediately bolts for escape when she notices she is bed-bound by a handcuff to her left hand.

Walter (Patrick Hunter) is introduced in the same scene. He, like Du, is a right-to-life activist who believes his purpose in life is to save and protect the unborn babies. But a more accurate description of his character would be a right-to-life extremist who is controlling, presumptuous, and downright insufferable at most points of the play.

Du has her obvious faults as well. And while it’s hard to sympathize with anyone other than Keely, the true victim here, Du does shows moments of resolve and breaks the “rules” laid forth by Walter multiple times. She seems conflicted and a prisoner of Walter’s tyrant personality in a different way, bound to loyalty to him by blood as his sister. It is clear that Du strongly opposes the abortion Keely desperately seeks, but it is also clear that she opposes the inhumane way Walter tries to discourage one. This obviously doesn’t excuse her criminal involvement, but it does make one a little more sympathetic towards her.

On the Saturday evening that I attended the play, the theatre was packed with an excited audience of students and members of the general public. This being my first time to attend a theatrical performance at UNO, I was initially shocked by the size of the theatre. I’m not quite sure what exactly I was expecting, but I definitely was not expecting to walk into a room smaller than some of my lecture classes. However, as the play progressed, I began to appreciate the intimacy the small setting provided—at certain parts, it truly felt like we, the audience, were right there in the play ourselves.

The acting was impressive overall. I was particularly moved by Bagwill’s powerful performance throughout the duration of the emotionally charged play. Hunter, who took on the role of Walter just 12 days prior to opening, appeared every bit the professional. This was Suire’s first role in a UNO production, but there were no visible signs of it.

Though the play was dark and heavy in subject matter, including rape and describing abortion in disturbing detail, it offered welcome moments of comedic relief — particularly in the interactions between Keely and Du. The final scene mirrors the opening scene, this time with Du in Keely’s position, locked up in a women’s prison. It seemed like poetic justice: it is fine to believe passionately in something, but not to go to the extreme in defending your beliefs, because it will eventually backfire upon you.

The second and final play on schedule for the spring season is Othello by William Shakespeare. It will also run in the Robert Nims Theatre from April 24-28 and May 1-4.