Written as a one-act play but with a possible intermission after the climactic thirteenth scene, Jane Martin’s emotional Keely and Du chronicles the fate of Keely from the last preparations for her imprisonment through her eventual release. Set almost exclusively in a sparsely furnished basement that has been converted into a prison, the play focuses on Keely’s developing and changing relationship with her adversary Du, the fundamentalist Christian who guards her to prevent her from terminating her unwanted pregnancy.
In the beginning, Du waits for two male orderlies to bring in the body of the unconscious, kidnapped Keely. She prepares the bed on which Keely will lie, handcuffed to its iron bedstead, and greets Walter, the organizer of the kidnapping. Walter is a sanctimonious pastor of fifty, who acts with the single-mindedness of a well-programmed robot. Du, on the other hand, betrays her underlying humanity through small acts of kindness toward their kidnap victim.
With Walter gone for four days, Du tends to Keely. At first, Keely fights with Du, throwing her breakfast on the floor. Du responds in a befuddled way, almost like a disoriented grandmother, telling of her own children and marriage, when all Keely cares about is to leave her prison. Du reveals her religious beliefs to Keely and tells her that she will not be released until it is too late to have an abortion.
Walter appears and begins his lectures to Keely. Self-righteously, he justifies his actions with his extreme religious beliefs and tells Keely that she will come to love her child once it is born. Keely rejects this attack on her liberty and freedom of choice. Du eventually pulls back Walter when he becomes too overbearing. Against the biblical passages quoted by Walter, Keely reveals that she was raped by her ex-husband and does not want his child, nor can she afford to raise it. Walter presents her with graphic antiabortion pamphlets, and Du gives her baby shoes, all in an effort to manipulate her soul.
Keely and Du develop a personal relationship. Du tells Keely of her own uneventful marriage to a man whom she found dull, and with whom she has three boys, while her baby girl had died. Du confesses that once her husband, who is seventy now, discovered religion, he set their marriage bed on fire. Keely responds with the story of how she met her husband, Cole. A working-class alcoholic with a nasty temperament, Keely married Cole to anger her policeman father. After she left him, Cole stalked her and used what Keely wanted to be their final meeting as an occasion to rape and impregnate her. Very upset, Keely tells Du that she must have an abortion.
Walter and Keely fight again, and Du joins Keely in laughing at Walter’s monotonous, robotic speeches. After he is gone, Du brings Keely her birthday gifts: a dress to wear and a sixpack of beer. Keely is unshackled, and the two women bond over shared beers. Keely tells Du of the satisfaction she found in rock climbing, remembering a night spent alone in a sleeping bag off a sheer cliff. She yearns to be alone and free.
The next day, Walter reappears and Du confesses the birthday party. Walter produces a surprise visitor, Cole. The man argues that he has found God and has mended his errant ways. Cole slides over to Keely, who is handcuffed to the bed again, and asks her to forgive him and raise their child. When he puts his hand in Keely’s mouth, begging her to come back to him, she bites him. Cole slaps her hard and leaves with Walter. Keely uses the wire hanger of her birthday dress to perform an abortion.
With Keely unconscious and covered in blood, Walter runs away while Du calls an ambulance. The last scene shows Keely visiting Du in jail. Du still disagrees with Keely’s choice but appreciates her visit. Keely tells her that she is going out with a married man, hoping for his divorce and a better future.
Strong dramatic unity of space is created by confining the action of all but the last scene to the basement...
(The entire section is 1,206 words.)