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The Appointment

A chorus line of singing and dancing fetuses and audience input are in this mesmerizing offbeat musical that thoughtfully explores the issue of abortion.

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Scott R. Sheppard, Brett Ashley Robinson, Jamie Maseda and Alice Yorke in a scene from “The Appointment” presented by Lightning Rod Special (Photo credit: Johanna Austin)

[avatar user=”Darryl Reilly” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Darryl Reilly, Critic[/avatar]A chorus line of singing and dancing fetuses follows the eerily comical beginning of The Appointment where we first meet them posed as if they’re in wombs and babbling in baby talk. When one of them is going to be aborted a hook as from a talent show appears, encircles their necks and pulls them offstage. It’s made quite clear that this mesmerizing offbeat musical will be thoughtfully exploring the issue of abortion. There’s lightheartedness with serious overtones. The overall quality is that of a television variety special of the 1970’s with comedy sketches, musical numbers and dashes of drama.

Alternating with the fetus sequences are quite realistic scenes in a clinic. We learn all about the procedures for an early abortion through the experiences of a central woman and subsidiary characters. There’s extended bits where the fetuses talk to and engage audience members sometimes while going out into the theater. Amusing in small doses this device makes the show’s 90 minutes seem padded. Thanksgiving dinner enacted by the fetuses is a surreal highlight.

Katie Gould, Jaime Maseda, Lee Minora, Brett Ashley Robinson, Brenson Thomas, Scott R. Sheppard and Alice Yorke comprise the dynamic ensemble who variously portray fetuses, medical personal and women getting abortions. The quietly intense Ms. Yorke plays the main figure and is the piece’s lead writer along with Mr. Sheppard, Eva Steinmetz and Alex Bechtel. The entire cast are collaborators as well and Mr. Bechtel composed the tunefully eclectic score.

Alice Yorke and Benson Thomas in a scene from “The Appointment” presented by Lightning Rod Special (Photo credit: Johanna Austin)

Ms. Steinmetz’s lively direction on the contained space utilizes curtains to great effect as they’re pulled open, closed and partially shut, allowing for different perspectives and locations. Choreographer Melanie Cotton’s vigorously animated movements for the fetuses recalls Bob Fosse’s dancing blood vessels in his film All That Jazz. Costume designer Jill Keys’ stunning use of skullcaps and multi-colored body suits with swinging umbilical cords that visualize the fetuses are integral to the production’s success.

Oona Curley’s scenic design swiftly veers from dark minimalism to depict the fetuses’ universe to well-chosen spare furnishings to transport us to the clinic. Lighting designer Masha Tsimring’s atmospheric dimness and Liz Atkinson’s amped up sound design accentuate the sense of fantasy alternating with reality.

The Appointment is a presentation of Lightning Rod Special. This Philadelphia-based company “creates raucous and contemplative works to ask questions of ourselves, our audience, and the world at large.” Apart from presenting the subject itself there’s no overt political message to really be discerned during this entertaining fantasia. Abortion exists and people have them is about as controversial as it gets here which for some may be incendiary.

The Appointment (through May 4, 2019)

Lightning Rod Special (LRS)

Next Door at NYTW (New York Theatre Workshop)

The Fourth Street Theatre,  83 East 4th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-460-5475 or visit

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

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