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Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Daniel Abeles, Molly Bernard, Jennifer Ikeda, and Eboni Booth
Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Pity the poor guy (Daniel Abeles) who appears to have wandered by accident into a world that embodies all of the rage, defiance, disgust, self-empowerment, and self-loathing of generations of women in Alice Birch's 65-minute ├╝ber-feminist roar of a play, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. that opened last night at Soho Rep.

"Opened" is probably too tame a verb to use here. Perhaps "exploded?" For word choice matters very much to the women (Molly Bernard, Eboni Booth, and Jennifer Ikeda) who occupy (as in "Occupy Wall Street") the platform stage and use it to skewer the men in their lives, each other, and themselves. Don't talk about making love "to" me, demands one; how about making love "with" me? You want to "peel" my clothes off? I'm not a potato. You're asking me to, what?... marry you? What? And become your chattel?

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., which the British playwright created for the Royal Shakespeare Company's Midsummer Mischief festival in 2014, seems intended to make a lot of mischief itself. Even with the raised fists, it's hard not to laugh at such outbursts as the ones above. Just be glad you are in the audience and not in the shoes of the man on the receiving end.

The play unfolds in a series of short scenes, each identified by a projected title: "Revolutionize the world (Do Not Marry);" "Revolutionize the language (Invent it)." In the scene titled "Revolutionize work (Engage with it)," one of the women announces that she will no longer work on Mondays, to which her boss responds by offering her every incentive under the sun to get her to capitulate, from vending machines in the hallways, to an on-site bar, to spa days. In another scene, a woman has lain down in the aisle of a supermarket, pulled her dress up over her head, and has done something or other involving melons.

As the play shifts into its second half, the cast scrambles to change the scene. While they are setting up a picnic table and surrounding it with tall potted plants to create a bucolic suburban oasis, one of the cast members goes through the audience offering up slices of watermelon (help yourself; they're pretty good). But despite the seemingly light tone, we are entering into the darkest section, a confrontation between a woman and the mother who abandoned her years before. This is a tough encounter that ends in an act of self-mutilation. From here to the end, the play erupts into chaos that involves blood, very bright lights, very loud sounds, and a fire extinguisher.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. brings to mind the anarchic works of such predecessors as Sarah Kane (Blasted), or Jean-Claude van Itallie (America Hurrah), or even a significant point of feminist solidarity from novelist John Irving (The World According to Garp). But Alice Birch, still in her 20s, offers an original and significant voice, and director Lileana Blain-Cruz and the fine cast at Soho Rep are giving that voice a chance to be heard in this all-out presentation of the play's U. S premiere.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
Through May 15
Soho Rep, 46 Walker Street
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix

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