Monday, April 22, 2019

The Pain of My Belligerence

My sister once said that, while the worst men are incredibly sleazy, the worst women are incredibly stupid. In the world premiere of The Pain of My Belligerence at Playwrights Horizons, writer Halley Feiffer spends 80 interminable, tedious, painful minutes demonstrating this point.

Feiffer, Linklater
Photo: Joan Marcus
The plot is simple: Cat, a needy woman, falls for an obnoxious, self-involved, asshole of a man named Guy who bites her, doesn't let her talk, and, oh, yeah, is married. They stay together for years. Time is marked--and faux significance is ham-handedly shoved into the show--by various elections, of course including that of Donald Trump. In her note in the program, Feiffer writes,
This play aims to explore the corrosive effects of the patriarchy on women and men alike—to examine the culture that has created the phenomenon of toxic masculinity and its insidious effects, and to start imagining ways we can break free...
Blah, blah, blah. Even the patriarchy deserves fairer representation than this boring, unpleasant play and the morons it depicts. Also, millions of humans have grown up in patriarchies but many still think for themselves, challenge themselves to grow, and take responsibility for their own behavior.


In the third scene of The Pain of My Belligerence, Cat meets Guy's wife Yuki. She is a complicated, original character, and this scene is almost kinda sorta not terrible.

[end of spoiler]

Playwright Feiffer plays Cat; her acting is moderately better than her writing, but she lacks the sort of texture and subtlety that could make Cat bearable and/or sympathetic. Guy is played by Hamish Linklater, who is almost handsome enough to justify Cat's complete and voluntary subjugation to him. Yuki is beautifully played by Vanessa Kai, who brings way more class to the show than it deserves.

I have rarely hated a play as actively and deeply as I hated this one. The minutes nanometered along, and my desire to leave the theatre grew almost unbearable by the ninth hour of its ostensible 80 minutes. When it finally ended, I commented to my friend, "Of all the plays I've ever seen, this show would make the top 10 of shows I hated the most." She replied, "Top 5."

Wendy Caster
(third row on the aisle; press ticket)
Show-Score: 0

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