What to Say to Your Uterus in “Her Downstairs”
“So, Becky, what would you like to say to your uterus?” Becky, or “Becs,” as her friends call her, has plenty to say to her uterus after she begins to suffer some unusual symptoms regarding her lady parts. Becky is a British thirty‑something actress turned party planner, who works for a London company called Peppy Party People. She not only arranges the events, she portrays Disney characters like Elsa from “Frozen” for children’s birthday parties. Her love interest is Danny, a cruise ship singer who travels extensively. Although Danny seems to be an adoring boyfriend, Becky questions his loyalty because he’s always surrounded by thin leggy dancers on his Instagram feed. Becky, who feels insecure, and slightly bloated, wonders how on earth she can compete. Danny will soon be on leave from his cruise ship, so Becky does her best to make herself presentable before his arrival. Her preparations include a stop at Victoria’s Secret to purchase a sexy teddy, and a trip to the salon to get a bikini wax. While she is being prepped for her bikini wax, the esthetician congratulates Becky on her pregnancy, then informs her that she is not allowed to perform treatment on a woman after her first trimester. Becky insists she is not pregnant, just bloated. Perhaps the culprit is her new habit of emotionally eating donuts. During her reunion with Danny a few days later, Becky dresses the part of the sexy girlfriend, and attempts to hide her growing stomach beneath a blousy top. However, she soon becomes even more uncomfortable when she and Danny try to become intimate. Sex is extremely painful for Becky, and she is faced with a new physical symptom. Instead of dealing with her body’s warning signs and Danny’s possible rejection of her, Becky breaks off their union, citing the challenges of long‑distance relationships. Although she is sad, she tells herself that in the long run, this is the best solution for both of them. To distract herself, Becky decides to join her parents on a family trip to New York City; however, instead of the adventurous excursion she was hoping for, the trip turns out to be a disaster. Her mother phones at the last minute to say that they will not be joining Becky on the trip. They have decided to stay home and play in a pickle ball tournament, which seems like a frivolous excuse. Frustrated, Becky finds an Irish pub to drown her sorrows, where she meets a tall handsome man who works in finance. Several drinks later, she agrees to go home with the stranger, hoping to forget her recent breakup and her parents’ flakiness. Her attempt at a one‑night stand proves fruitless when she suffers the same pelvic pain she suffered earlier with Danny. Becky realizes something is definitely wrong, so she calls her best friend Lucy for advice. Lucy encourages her to see a doctor right away. After several uncomfortable tests, Becky finds out that she is definitely not pregnant; however, there is some “weird alien baby” growing inside her womb. “Her Downstairs” deals with the multifaceted issues surrounding women’s health and fertility, specifically uterine fibroids. These abnormal growths are small non‑cancerous tumors that grow in and around the uterus. They are commonly found in women between the ages of thirty and forty. This show brings to light the underlying symptoms and the treatment options available to women who develop fibroids. Although these masses are not considered fatal, they can bring about devastating results. Some of the treatment procedures are preventative and minimally invasive; however, other treatments can drastically alter a woman’s fertility. Becky is brilliantly played by writer and performer Sherill Turner. Although I am not sure whether or not this story is autobiographical, Ms. Turner makes it feel very personal. The audience witnesses her character’s metamorphosis as she struggles through the physical pain and symptoms of her fibroids, her extensive medical tests, and her questions about how it all will ultimately affect her fertility. Becky has never really thought about becoming a mother, yet this new obstacle forces her to question if motherhood is still a viable option for her. Ms. Turner does a masterful job of portraying the large cast of characters. They all have distinct British and American accents, and she transitions seamlessly from continent to continent. She portrays Becky, her boyfriend Danny, “Mum and Dad,” friends Lucy and Cass, and a variety of doctors and other medical specialists. Ms. Turner provides enough dialect and stylization of these characters, without overdoing it. Thanks to the dramatization of these characters’ interactions and phone conversations, the audience feels privy to Becky’s most intimate moments. Credit must also be given to director Joanna Simmons; she is an adept puppet master who manages to keep the threads of the story tightly woven together, while allowing each nuance and subplot to shine. The story never loses its pacing or depth of emotion. Although there is a lot of information being presented within a limited amount of time, the audience is able to witness the symbiotic connection between Becky’s inner and outer conflicts. Both paths feel equally charged. Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a show entitled “My Downstairs.” Would it be an updated version of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” or a thriller that takes place in a basement? Either way I was pleasantly enlightened and surprised by this show. It made me think about the importance of listening to your gut, your uterus, or whatever other part of your body is sending you warning signs. It’s also important to encourage your loved ones to do the same. As Becky finishes her story, she learns how to become comfortable with her body and the complexities of dealing with her lady parts. Then she passes the candle on to the next woman who may have a story to share. So, what do you want to say to your uterus?
“Her Downstairs” Written and performed by Sherill Turner Directed by Joanna Simmons November 14 at 7:30 PM Photo credit: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Theatre Festival Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
KIA STANDARD is a writer and musical theater performer, who has appeared in regional and international productions of “West Side Story,” “The King and I”, “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” She received an MA in Creative Writing/Nonfiction from The Johns Hopkins University, and has published articles and profiles for various talent magazines. Ms. Standard is currently working as a musical playwright.