“Choice”: even the most personal ones affect countless others

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A man and two women are standing in a kitchen.
Choice (L to R) Dakin Matthews as Clark Ilana Levine as Zippy Caitlin Kinnunen as Zoe (Photo by T Charles Erickson)
The image shows a two woman in a kitchen. The women are indoors, standing near a table and a stool. The background includes a chair against the wall and items on the floor.
Choice (L to R) Kate A Mulligan as Erica Ilana Levine as Zippy (Photo by T Charles Erickson)

The things one decides to do, or not do, are almost always done for personal reasons. It is why the right to choose is so fiercely fought for, from everything to what one has for breakfast to what medical procedures to undergo. Yet one’s choices, no matter the size, affect more than the individual; they can affect family, friends, even the larger community. And they are the subject of speculation, even judgment, by those around the chooser.

This is the territory staked out by acclaimed playwright Winnie Holzman in her new play, Choice, now at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton. Holzman follows a free-lance writer, her family, and friends, through the fall and winter of 2020-2021 in Westchester as she takes on a new assignment. The writer, Zipporah “Zippy” Zunder (Ilana Levine), appears deceptively scatter-brained and uncertain about the article. Zippy is happily married to Clark Plumly (Dakin Matthews), a much older former professor of hers who is also a published author. They have one child, their young adult daughter Zoe (Caitlin Kinnunen) who currently lives with them. We also meet Zippy’s friend Erica (Kate A. Mulligan); Erica’s good-natured but socially awkward current boyfriend, Mark (Barzin Akhavan); and Hunter (Jake Cannavale), a former student of Zippy’s seeking a job as Zippy’s assistant – something she neither wants nor needs.

The assignment is an investigative piece about a group of women who, years after having abortions, believe they have met up with people who harbor the reincarnated souls of their unborn children. Erica, who had chosen abortion in the past, encourages Zippy to rip into what she sees as the delusional regrets of those women. To her, doing any less would be fatal to the pro-choice movement because of the complications regarding the status of unborn children that would arise. Clark offers unconditional support to Zippy no matter where her investigations lead, trusting in his wife’s basic fairness and sense of honesty. Zoe, dealing with her own life issues, refuses to become the representative of her generation on the topic of a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.

Director Sarah Rasmussen, McCarter’s Artistic Director, collaborated with playwright Holzman in bringing Choices to the McCarter stage. Their result explores a mature woman’s anxieties as she enters a new stage of her life, facing an empty nest, the oncoming physical decline of her husband, and difficulties maintaining her career and her friendships. The mental whirlwind Zippy finds herself in is echoed in the revolving set of her house created by scenic designer Andrew Boyce.

Choice looks at friendships between women, romantic relationships, and the multitude of choices one has to make when crafting a life. As performed by the marvelous cast assembled at McCarter, Choice unfolds as a mystery, a comedy, a drama of options embraced and paths deliberately not taken. I stop short of saying this play is a masterpiece, but it is a strong play that explores themes not seen in other recent dramas. I recommend heading to Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center to see Choice.

Choice is presented in the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton through June 2nd, 2024.  For more information or to get tickets, go to mccarter.org or call 609-258-2787.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.