Ruby, a 45-minute solo performance piece by Susan Gross, opens with her eating lunch while reading when the background noise of other diners is shattered by the cries of a baby. She reacts with annoyance, even chastising the mother for her failures to quiet the child. But is that what is really bothering her? What has been triggered?
It’s the stinging entry point into a story that’s a deeply personal experience of the writer’s miscarriage. Gross takes us on a captivating exploration of her journey, broadening our understanding of a situation fraught with complicated and conflicting emotions.
Once Gross directly addresses the audience with her revelation, she backs up to her pre-pregnancy time, even admitting a certain ambivalence about having children. Here, she humorously chronicles the insensitive remarks often made by others who seem to believe she has no real purpose otherwise.
But everything changes once she finds herself pregnant, and strangers think they have some right to touch her belly, or to “bless” her womb. Then she finds herself not knowing how to deal with the “premature happiness” that followed the positive test. What does she do with those celebratory pictures now? How does one talk about that experience?
Gross details the type of miscarriage she experienced: a missed miscarriage where the fetus dies, but the body thinks it is still pregnant. She has to endure a dilation and curettage (or D&C) which renders as much, if not more, emotional pain as physical pain. With dark humor, she rebuts the notion that it is God’s plan. Why, she asks, would he choose some to be mothers and deny others?
So as she rages at and wrestles with the pain of hearing her neighbor’s baby crying at night, she’s also grappling with her own complex emotions. She’s acknowledging and giving voice to the struggle to live and keep going, despite an uncertain future.
Gross offers an intimate glimpse of her journey, moving through her pain with witty remarks that also accent it. It seems to be her way of blunting the pain, and it takes some of that emotional power away as well. We understand her dilemma intellectually, but we don’t always feel the impact.
And yet, her commentary constantly underlines the complicated issues that surround women’s bodies and the tangled messages that only heighten even normal levels of anxiety. She gives us another way of looking at choice, reminding us of how deeply personal that decision is, as well as the factors that affect it.
Ruby runs through June 18 at Burning Coal Theatre. For more information visit https://burningcoal.org/.