When women imagine future societies without men, it's often a bit utopian... like, say, Sally Gearhart's The Wanderground. But a new play taking New York by storm takes place in a women-only dystopia... and it's a comedy.
What We Once Felt by Anne Marie Healy is being produced at the LTC3 theater, part of the Lincoln Center campus. As near as I can glean from reading all the reviews, it takes place in a woman-only future, where you get pregnant by swallowing a special pill — which can be downloaded off the internet. But this otherwise idyllic future world has a caste system: Women are divided into Keepers, who are beautiful and perfect, and Tradepacks, who have some "preexisting condition" that may make them unhealthy. The ugly, unwanted Tradepacks do all the crappy jobs, except for a few who are able to pass as Keepers. There's a movement afoot to get rid of all the Tradepacks, by convincing them that they can go to Paradise if they all die.
Talking to New York Magazine, Healy explains the reasoning behind the Keeper/Tradepack split:
It started with the health-care debate, and people with preexisting conditions being denied health care. In this world, the information about what diseases people had and their preexisting conditions became part of a database, so that the society began to divide into two parts. There's the world of the Keepers, who are supposedly perfectly healthy, and they're allowed to procreate and they're allowed to live the life of the Haves, and there's the part of the society that has been genetically sequenced, and there's no indication that they will be sick, they've just been systematically marginalized.
And meanwhile, book publishing is all but obsolete — and an ambitious young writer, Macy O. Blonsky, wants to have her novel be the last print book ever published. (I'm wondering if anybody would be reading the last print book ever published — presumably it's the last book because people have already stopped reading them?) In any case, Macy makes a faustian bargain with a book publisher, Claire Monsoon — Claire is secretly a Tradepack who's passing as a Keeper, and she wants to borrow Macy's "scancard" so she can trick the social apparatus into letting her download a baby and get pregnant.
It all sounds very silly, and more than a little contrived — but also potentially fun. NewYorkTheatreGuide.com gives it one star out of five, but other reviews are a fair bit more upbeat. In any case, it's always nice to see a new take on dystopia.