Thursday, October 04, 2018

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

Don't worry: the five prototypical women in Jen Silverman's absurdist comedy aren't going to yell at you over the course of the 90 swift minutes that they're onstage at the Lortel Theater. They're too busy trying to figure out who they are and what skins they're most comfortable inhabiting once they throw off all the societal bullshit and cultural expectations they've been saddled with all their damn lives. This ultimately results in a lot less demonstrative rage than the title might imply, which I suppose is very much in keeping with the contemporary woman: were any one of us--no matter what sort of woman we are or will become--to let out all the rage we carry around with us, the world might very well fold in on itself.  

Joan Marcus

Speaking of folds, Collective Rage is structured in a way that's kind of Shakespearean, kind of postmodern, and--given the frequency with which the word "pussy" is used, probably not at remotely accidentally--kind of vaginal: it's basically a play within a play, even if the narratives of both aren't especially linear or totally cohesive. Both Collective Rage and the play within--a completely half-assed, barely rehearsed, disastrously amusing non-staging of the Pyramus and Thisbe story--allow the characters to try on various personae in their search for comfort and meaning in strange, alienating times. Sometimes, the trying on of personae is literal: at various points, every one of the Bettys slips new costumes on or items of old ones off.  At other times, the show is less straightforward, if consistently enjoyable. The cast--Dana Delany, Ana Villafañe, Lea DeLaria, Adina Verson, and Chaunté Wayans--is strong to a woman, though Verson, as the most spiritually lost and longing of Bettys, is especially impressive in a role that's admittedly somewhat weightier than the rest.
I'm not convinced that this is the deepest, most profound play about contemporary women I've ever seen in my life, but it's great fun and, for all the havoc, curiously reassuring, which goes a very long way lately. See it if you can before it closes up shop this weekend.

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