“In the Waves,” directed and written by UCSC students, examines the subject of abortion from many points of view. Perspectives favoring abstinence and women’s right to choose are both represented, as are the effects an abortion can have on family and partners. Photo by Nick Paris.
Evie Tomasso and Alex Bellman, played by third-year Veronica Tjioe and second-year Alex Caan, share a passionate moment. Photo by Nick Paris.

In the midst of the current political dialogue and the rise of Palin-esque “feminists,” the question of women’s rights and the right to choose lingers on the tongues of many. “In the Waves,” a play written and directed by UC Santa Cruz students, addresses these questions through the story of Evie Tomasso, a 17-year-old girl who must decide what course to take after unexpectedly becoming pregnant.

At one point early on in the play, the character, Evie, played by third-year theater arts major Veronica Tjioe, proclaims, “I’m glad the world is crooked.”

And that is how the world the Tomassos live in is: crooked, imperfect. There is no right answer, but there are many answers and even more questions, something the play attempts to tackle.

“What’s right for someone is not always right for others,” said Alexandrea Bezdeka, a graduate student in theater arts and director of the play. “We want to open people’s eyes, letting people know there is a right [to choose] … and why abortions are important.”

The play does not attempt to lecture the audience on the politics of women’s rights but aims to open up a discussion.

“It’s about the right to choose and whose choice is that — should we involve parents? Should we involve the man? Whose choice is it, and is it right or wrong?” Bezdeka said. “The great thing that [the playwright] Kathryn Walhberg did [is] she focuses on a lot of the sides of the story. It’s not just the woman’s side.”

The play deals extensively with the strain that is placed on the relationship between Evie and her father, Osmond, played by fourth-year Porter student Grey Skold, as they deal with Evie’s decisions. The dynamic of the father-daughter relationship highlights the way in which the conversation on abortion rights includes not only women but varying voices with opposing ideas and perspectives.

“It’s a pretty well-rounded play,” Tjioe said. “It’s not saying abortion is an easy thing, or that pro-choice is an entirely positive thing. It’s dealing with how difficult the issue is to deal with.”

“In the Waves” does not provide a universal answer, instead focusing on the answer that is best for the individual in question.

Alex Caan, a second-year theater arts major from Kresge who plays Alex Bellman, Evie’s boyfriend, said the actors were also affected by the heavy nature of the play.

“The first time we read it through, everyone had an emotional breakdown,” Caan said. “It’s a difficult thing to deal with, coming to work every day and playing someone who is going through so much.”

The play itself is complex in structure, a multi-layered story centered on Evie’s rights and her choices. The play opens in a flash-forward, and then rewinds to explain why Osmond is looking for his daughter at a clinic. On another level, the play depicts Evie’s growth through lectures that Osmond, a professor of art, gives to the audience. Tjioe notes that the play is “structured into trimesters, much like a pregnancy,” and, in this way — through the events of her pregnancy and decisions — Evie is reborn into the adult world.

Throughout the play, there is a line of continuity from the play’s beginning to its end. For example, Evie’s physical stance as she contemplates a painting at the close of the play echoes her stance at the beginning. As in the title, water and liquid are clear motifs in the play.

Although the play is simple at first glance — the stage is decorated with only a few pieces of furniture — it is aware of itself, the conversation it is putting forward, the reality of the situations of characters and its relevance to the current political and social atmosphere.

Director Bezdeka, who left information on the play in a family clinic, was drawn to the show because it “is not necessarily a show that can be put on in any particular place.”

“Sex is such a taboo in our society unless we’re talking quietly in our dorm rooms,” Bezdeka said. “We want to open it up…It’s just such a topic that not anyone talks about.”

At the close of the play, the audience is left not with a definitive or clear answer, but with a tone of neutrality. No character has fully come to terms with what has happened, but each is taking the steps to move towards a resolution. Osmond ends his final lecture and closes the play by explaining how the woman in the painting is just trying to “keep herself afloat,” much like Evie.

“It’s just a piece of people’s lives, for this amount of time, and this is how it happened — there doesn’t necessarily need to be an ending,” said fourth-year Kat Brown, who plays Molly Nadzia, a women’s rights advocate.

Cast member Caan said the lack of a resolution is “beautiful.”

He said: “It’s like life, isn’t it?”