While women’s rage has taken the global stage since the #metoo movement dawned last year, it’s been festering and hiding in plain sight for a long time.
Take, for example, “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.” It’s an incendiary 2014 drama by English playwright Alice Birch that made its San Diego premiere on Saturday.
The raw, funny, wildly imaginative and gripping 70-minute play opens InnerMission Productions’ third season at the Diversionary Black Box Theatre in University Heights.
InnerMission co-artistic directors Carla Nell and Kym Pappas are committed to producing diverse new work and “Revolt” is one of the most provocative and experimental pieces they’ve ever staged.
The play is a call to arms for women who struggle under the weight of words, attitudes, physical violence and paternalistic traditions in male-dominated society.
Birch’s free-form script doesn’t have named characters or assigned lines. Nor does it give the director much in the way of stage directions, except for a bold-face note at the bottom of page 2 that reads: “Most importantly, this play should not be well-behaved.”
Director Pappas has imaginatively staged the play with a limited color palette of black and white, with red ropes, strings, scissors and stilettos used to represent the ties that bind women into marriage, sexual submission, dead-end careers, self-loathing and cycles of abuse.
The production’s eye-catching and cohesive design features stunning ritualistic choreography by Patrick Mayuyu, scenery by Ashley Rauras and Robert Malave, lighting by Eric Ward, sound by Carla Nell and projections by James M. McCullock.
The play is divided into six sections. The first four encourage women to revolt against misogynistic language, the repression of marriage, sexism in the workplace and body-shaming. There’s also a scene where a woman confronts her long-lost mother, a battered wife who abandoned her children decades before, causing irreparable damage to their psyches.
It ends with a crazed eruption of scattered word soup, like a fragmented mass of women’s tweets, memes and Facebook videos, followed by a repeated, and seemingly defeated, plea for revolution.
The talented cast, dressed entirely in black by assistant director and costume designer Alanna Serrano, is a tight, well-rehearsed ensemble.
Kirstiana Rosas has a moving scene as a woman fighting to free and fortify herself from a history of self-mutilation, bulimia and anorexia.
Carla Navarro is fierce as a woman who sees her lover’s marriage proposal as an invitation to identity-destroying subjugation and suicide.
Charly Montgomery is fearless and very funny as a woman who turns the tables on her lover, challenging the language of control and domination men use during sex.
Claudette Santiago is bold and uncompromising as an office worker who firmly but politely demands time off from her misogynistic boss.
Kathi Copeland is icy-cold and empty-eyed as the mother who abandoned her children.
And as the only male actor in the show, Salvador Velasco has a big job, which he performs in various scenes with honesty, sensitivity, machismo and cartoonish callousness.
Although it may sound like “Revolt” is purely anti-male, it’s not. Most of the women in the play are fighting battles with themselves brought on by their struggles to live in a man’s world. It’s a provocative and sometimes profound preview of the long-simmering fury that gave birth to the #metoo movement in 2017.
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