Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company

The incisive comedy cuts through Atwater Village through February 25

By: Jan. 30, 2023
Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company
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Sexism and misogyny have been rampant for decades - centuries - no matter the context: social, private, or professional. It can take form in the highest levels of government, the golden hills of Hollywood, or in the most mundane, colorless office in Anytown, USA. Playwright Mara Nelson-Greenberg smartly and incisively takes on the topic of this disease in DO YOU FEEL ANGER?, now being performed at the Circle X Theatre Company in Atwater Village to explosive and thought-provoking results.

Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company
Paula Rebelo and Casey Smith

When Sofia (Paula Rebelo) attempts to turn a dysfunctional debt-collection agency into an "empathy engine" she runs up against barriers she could never anticipate. John, the HR guy (Casey Smith), is a loony tune who just wants Sofia to sign off on the empathy exercise so the office can get back to normal; Jordan (Napoleon Tavale) and Howie (Rich Liccardo), the other two males in her class, are such man-children they make QAnon members look like Rhodes Scholars; and Eva (Tasha Ames) is repeatedly being assaulted in the office kitchen. And, of course, Sofia has her own personal issues she's processing as evidenced by lengthy voice mails left by mother (Rose Portillo).

Nelson-Greenberg does a magnificent job of hitting the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement with a fresh approach. Her script is complex and trenchant and edgy without being self-conscious about it. It has touches of absurdity a la Beckett (the male characters all but wear red noses they're such clowns) but it is only half a step from reality, making the comedy that much more terrifying. She is masterful at skewering the toxic masculinity that infects even the most mediocre of men. It's so instilled in so many that they can't see it or understand it, which is exhibited uniquely through John, Jordan, and Howie, who are so emotionally stunted, they can't identify an emotion let alone process one.

Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company
Napoleon Tavale, Paula Rebelo,
and Rich Liccardo

Director Halena Kays brings depth to every moment, big and small, keeping the energy up while also giving the pace time to breathe, so audiences can catch their breath from laughing. All of the characters are rich and layered and the actors are superb, but Ames as Eva, who takes the brunt of the toxicity in the most generic, nondescript office you can imagine, is a standout. Ames plays Eva's manic trauma pitch-perfectly, exposing the wounded heart of every woman who has been assaulted physically, emotionally, and/or psychologically. Smith and Tavale also leave deep impressions through their performances: Smith's John is so unmoored from reality he's practically in another galaxy is still entirely recognizable as men we've all known in life; and Tavale's Jordan, fancying himself a ladies' man, is the type who thinks he coasts on his looks and his suavity, when in reality his arrested development sets off alarms at first sight. Both bring pathos and profundity to the roles.

Scenic designer François-Pierre Couture is on point, having created a set that so mirrors the blandness and characterlessness of Corporate America, it's as forgettable (purposely, of course) as it is serviceable. (You've been in offices like the one in the show and don't remember them either.) The anonymity of the characters' world makes the show - and its themes - that much more chilling.

Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company
Rich Liccardo and Paula Rebelo

The Circle X Theater Company always takes on challenging projects with sometimes thorny topics and themes, and DO YOU FEEL ANGER? is no exception. Prepare to laugh, gasp, and think. Especially think, long after you've left the theater.

DO YOU FEEL ANGER? is performed at the Circle X Theater Company, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, through February 25. Tickets are available at circlextheatre.org or by calling (323) 644-1929.

All photos by Jeff Lorch




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