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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Blood of the Lamb

B Street Theatre and the Journey Company & Fringe Management

Genre: American Theater, Drama, New Writing, Political, Theatre

Venue: Assembly


Low Down

A searing, Kafkaesque drama about the criminalization of abortion. After her transcontinental flight is diverted to Dallas, Nessa inexplicably finds herself trapped in a room with Val, a lawyer for the state. Nessa just wants to leave on the next plane, but this is Texas. New abortion laws prohibit Nessa from leaving the state until after she gives birth, even though both women know the fetus is deceased and Nessa’s life is in danger. Can Val be persuaded to go against her convictions, putting her own career on the line in order to help Nessa escape?


“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

— Revelation 12:11

A woman finds herself trapped in a bureaucratic and political nightmare in Arlene Hutton’s jolting Blood of the Lamb, an urgent new play that speaks to the moment and also dares to ask what might be next. Such is the topicality of this work that the laws surrounding abortion in Texas, where the play is set, have changed twice since the start of this year’s Fringe Festival.  

The scenario is classically simple but the situation is anything but. Nessa, played by Dane Brooke, was on a flight to New York from California when her plane got diverted to Texas. Still discombobulated, unsure of where she exactly is and why, she is brought into a nondescript room by Val, played by Elisabeth Nunziato, a Texan official of some stripe who has been brought in to take care of the matter. Nessa is unclear about what the problems actually are, as she passed out on the plane and was taken off the flight without her bag (and its accompanying forms of needed identification for travel) and her phone. As a result, her only source of information and aid is Val, who claims she is there to help but remains somewhat distant and withholds information until pushed. Moreover, and rather ominously, there is a guard standing watch outside the door. A man. 

The extra protection is not for Nessa. It is for the dead fetus that Nessa must now carry to term because it, by law, now has the rights of a citizen. Val is there to make sure that the stillbirth happens, even if it means Nessa’s life will be jeopardized by the possibility of a lethal infection. In this brave new world, the unliving may take a life.

The tension that follows in this taut hour-long two-hander reminded me of the best moments of the closed-room dramas of David Mamet and Harold Pinter, but, tellingly, and importantly, this time told from a female perspective. As Val does her best to clarify what procedures need to be taken given the sudden circumstances, it becomes scarily clear that the unseen guard outside the door is just one of many men making random and thoughtless rules for women that puts them in untenable positions.

Tightly and expertly directed by Lyndsay Burch, Blood of the Lamb grabs its audience by the throat from beginning to end. The wonderful Dana Brooke skillfully takes the audience on her character’s ride, haunting us as we see her learn, bit by bit, her new, awful reality. Elisabeth Nunziato, replete with Barbie-pink laptop and cell-phone cover, gives a complicated, beautifully nuanced performance as Val. She may be somewhat unwittingly tangled in an ugly web of power-hungry men, but her religious beliefs are deep and sincere. As a result, and this is a high compliment, it is impossible to villainize her.

Blood of the Lamb powerfully dramatizes who ends up paying the highest price when the separation between church and state is dissolved. Hutton puts the issue right in front of us and won’t let us look away, reminding us that though the answers to these very-present dilemmas are complicated and disturbing, they must be sought and confronted.