I see a lot of plays, in fact, I try to see as many as I can. And rarely does a play have the effect of pure explosion. That pretty, pretty is a Carnivale of hairbands, feminist angst, male hormones and pop culture references, all peppered with a healthy dose of Jane Fonda. If it seems strange, that's because it is, strange in ways I find intriguing, but others may well find offensive.
The play will be controversial for some. It is pulp fiction, meets kill bill, meets g.i. jane, meets striptease. Basically an examination of every attempt by a male to define female characters, laid bare. Rape comes in many forms and none are left unscathed.
The plot? Hmmm. At first one assumes that this is a play about pro-choice activist sisters, or perhaps lesbian lovers, or perhaps both, who pick out their victims at pro-life rallies lure them back to seedy hotel rooms, murder them, and of course blog about it.
Only to discover, that these characters are figments of the overactive male imagination, slowly being configured into a screenplay by an obnoxious burgeoning screenwriter named Owen, who creates these "bad-ass but feminist but hot characters " loosely based on himself, his best friend, his mom and this girl Agnes who may or may not have dumped him, cheated on him, or beat him up as a child. The plot is far from linear, the real and surreal are never clearly delineated, and the pace is delightfully frantic.
These two stories are interlocked with various discordant scenes, loosely constructed, but cleverly connected through the repetition of dialogue. Among all the violence, and there is a lot of it, quieter scenes slow you down for the sake of impact. In one particularly painful dining scene, two dates are cut-down by their boyfriends every time they speak. The women then drop to the floor and roll around in a manic state only to be beckoned back to civility by their boyfriend's commands. The simple words are the least flamboyant of the rape scenes in the play, but among the most powerful.
This is my first play by Sheila Callaghan and I'm very excited to see more, her voice is both modern and all-encompassing, even if sometimes seeming a little wacky in doing so. I wrote a little bit ago about a fear among female writers to define things outside their own experience, to place their stories as a part of something bigger. It is an ambition that is often met with criticism, and this play certainly was. But at least this play has ambition. And dare I say it, balls.