WHAT "Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties"
WHEN | WHERE Through Oct. 7, Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St.
INFO $49-$99; 866-811-4111, mcctheater.org
BOTTOM LINE An absurdly humorous look at five women with nothing, yet so much, in common.
The five title characters in Jen Silverman's absurdly humorous and humorously absurd “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties," now at MCC's Lucille Lortel Theatre, have nothing, yet so much, in common.
The rich, bored Upper East Side matron, the sexually starved housewife, the Sephora saleswoman dreaming of fame, the tough lesbian obsessed with her truck, the queer owner of a boxing gym — identified only as Betties 1-5 — are lost souls seeking more in their lives. What it is exactly, they get 90 minutes to figure out.
After obligatory introductions establish tenuous connections, things get clicking when Betty 3 (Ana Villafañe) goes to the “thea-tuh,” where a production of “Summer's Midnight Dreams" (that’s how she remembers it, anyway) ignites her own thespian dreams. She enlists the others in her production of "Burmese and Frisbee," or maybe "Pyramid and Thirsty" — you know, that play about Pyramus and Thisbe within a play in the Shakespeare comedy — and the hysterical rehearsal process that ensues brings each of the Betties significant insight.
As the title suggests, everyone has anger issues, most notably Betty 1 (Dana Delany), which eventually send her to the boxing gym of Betty 5 (Chaunté Wayans), a "gender-nonconforming, masculine-presenting, female-bodied individual." There Betty 1 discovers she loves hitting things — and a whole lot more, mostly having to do with her sexual proclivities. Meanwhile, Betty 4 (Lea DeLaria) pines for the oblivious Betty 3, who is too busy descending into full-out divadom to notice. All the while the most repressed of the lot, Betty 2 (Adina Verson), has no one to talk to but her hand puppet. Director Mike Donahue has assembled a dream cast of stage and screen stars and he basically lets them have at it as the action unfolds in a series of vignettes, props (watch out for that chair!) flying from the ceiling of Dane Laffrey's versatile set.
The play explores the relationships among these women in vivid, extremely sexual terms that may be off-putting to some (dare I say, especially the men) in the audience. There is a lot — really a lot — of talk about intimate parts of the female anatomy.
Listen to us, the playwright seems to be saying. And listen to each other. Betty 3 has a desire many of us can relate to — she wants everyone to love her. The profound response from Betty 4: "Everybody loving you is actually the same thing as nobody loving you."
So what are the five Betties looking for? Pretty much what we all are: the courage to simply be ourselves.