BWW Review: COLLECTIVE RAGE Catches Fire at Open Stage

BWW Review: COLLECTIVE RAGE Catches Fire at Open Stage

When you hear the title COLLECTIVE RAGE and understand that the play you're to see may be feminist, queer, or both, you might picture angry women screaming about men, God, the universe, or almost anything. Once you see that the full title is COLLECTIVE RAGE: A TALE IN FIVE BETTIES, you might warm up to the idea that the play might not be so very angry. If you were to read the entire subtitle, which you're best off reading on the program and not here, and start laughing about Ernest Shackleton and comparing the Antarctic to genitalia, you will certainly realize you're face to face with comedy.

And even better, while it's queer and feminist, while it plays with gender stereotypes and counter-types, and while it's really quite funny while making points, it's full of heart. What other play could be a story of love, friendship, and a female Naked Cowboy? And of five women, every one of whom is named Betty?

Sure, the universe is upside down and topsy-turvy, and women, especially lesbians, bisexuals, and queer women, as well as women of color, get no free passes out of the mess. But sometimes, there's a glimmer of light. Stuffy Betty 1 hosts an Upper East Side dinner party that results in the wildly uninhibited Betty 3 hosting a party that turns into a feminist celebration of the most frequent word of the show, pussy. To say that the rest of the show involves gender fluidity, sexual fluidity, fashion fluidity, philosophical fluidity, and Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney shouting "let's put on a show!" doesn't convey the fun entirely, and to discuss the war zones of casting your friends in your play and having the worst dinner party since AUGUST, OSAGE COUNTY doesn't indicate the breadth and depth of the show.

In short, you have to see it not only to believe it, but to get it -- and that's all right. In fact, it's just fine. Once you're started, just sit back for the ride and let yourself get swept up in the fun.

Karen Ruch directs five feisty, frolicking Betties, comprised of Kelly Strange, Amber Mann, Amber Zambrana, Aneesa Neibauer, and Manuela Hooper, who do everything from host dinners to direct plays to run boxing gyms. You can reminisce about shopping, or the fun -- yes, seriously and hilariously -- that it's possible to have in prison. You can even remember your days in college majoring in Canadian Studies.

Somewhere between sketch comedy and fully plotted and conceived "point A to point B" storytelling, COLLECTIVE RAGE is alternately mystifying and magical, dramatic and completely silly, nearly obscene and thoroughly redemptive. It's a bit like trying to be female in modern America, come to think of it.

The Betties themselves are a wonderful troupe; you may have a favorite character, but there's no performer who's uniquely best, as they work together harmoniously. If there is a lead, it's possibly Betty 2, Amber Mann, who goes through the most amazing collection of life transitions most visibly and hilariously, but there's no one to single out as the best of the crowd. Ruch's directing blends woman and theme together as neatly as possible in this ball of yarn that's a whole lot of yarn-spinning.

As you won't "get it" unless you see it, and it's a stunning piece of newer theatre, your only option is to see it immediately. Alas, it's only on through May 6, which seems unfair as you really need a second time through the show to appreciate all of its humor. (Did we mention Canadian Studies?)

For tickets and information, visit openstagehbg.com. But don't miss out on the show.



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