This review of Ruby at The Bridge Theatre (Shelter Studios) was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written & Performed by Susan Gross
Directed by Jake Lipman
Stage Managed by Angeline Nortz
Featuring Song "Hudson Ferry" by Clayton Colwell
The Bridge Theatre (Shelter Studios)
244 West 54th Street
New York, New York 10019
Susan Gross is amazing in Ruby, a solo show which explores the emotional and intellectual reactions a woman may have after losing a baby. Many people have miscarriages but nobody talks about it. This show explores the topic from the perspective of the would-be mother. Ruby opens with Susan Gross sitting alone in an upscale restaurant eating a $15.00 salad. She is being annoyed by a baby who won't stop crying and eventually asks the mother to take the baby outside. When the mother resists and tells her she will understand when she has a baby, Susan loses it and calls the mother an "asshole" acknowledging to the audience her recognition that she is a bitch. But the problem, we learn, is that Susan has just had a miscarriage, losing a baby at 10-weeks she intended to call Ruby. This was an emotionally traumatic experience for her and she is hypersensitive to things her friends and strangers say to her. For example, it drives her nuts when someone tells her that her unborn baby is now "in a better place." Statements, actions, and situations that never bothered her before now get on her nerves. She finds it difficult to sleep and recognizes she is having thoughts and feelings she never anticipated having, such as her reaction to that crying baby.
Susan's character has a very petite frame. If she eats a big breakfast, she may show in a way others may perceive as evidencing her being pregnant. People have commented on this so many times, she is thinking of having a tee shirt made that reads, "Not pregnant but I shouldn't have had that everything bagel with cream cheese." Some people are even more aggressive placing the palm of their hand on her stomach and saying, "Are we pregnant?" What she wants to say in such instances is, "Take your fucking hands off me!" reflecting the rage she feels within. Instead, she just says no but warns the audience they should never, under any circumstances, "comment on a woman's stomach." Another thing that really bothers her is when a friend may ask her, "Susan, why don't you have kids? You'd make a great mother." What is she supposed to say besides thanks? Is she supposed to go into detail and tell everyone how hard she has tried?
Women who have babies now annoy her. As she said, "My neighbor just had a baby so I hate her!" At night, when she hears that baby cry, she fantasizes she might be able to hold and comfort that baby better than her neighbor but at the same time, is concerned that if Ruby had been born, she may have inherited whatever genetic disorders she suffers from - such as scoliosis. She also hates women who appear to "push one out after every episode of Law & Order" and gets especially angry when a friend tells her, "You just have to wait and see what God has in store for you." Instead of waiting, she sometimes has thoughts of snatching someone else's baby after which she will say, "Yes, Jesus, I'm blessed. He's now mine!" Intellectually, she realizes she is not the only woman to have had a miscarriage but she shares with the audience that recognition hasn't helped her adjust to the reality of her situation. As she reflects on the future, she believes she may try again. For now, she has locked the door but hasn't put a deadlock on it.
Susan Gross reflects that "we all struggle but we live and move along - we keep going" so for now, she is going to have "a glass of wine and look at the city" through her apartment window. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the very talented Susan Gross perform this show - and I did so while having a glass of wine myself. For more information about Ruby and Susan Gross, go to www.nycsusan.com