Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Off Broadway: Dana Delany, on a Break before CBS’s “The Code,” Puts on Boxing Gloves for “Collective Rage”


You know that you are dealing in the abstract when the five characters in a single play are called Betty, as in the MCC production of Jen Silverman’s “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties” at the Lucille Lortel Theater on Christopher Street. Betty #1, a svelte urban housewife, rages about the news, a continued anxiety unrelieved by her philandering husband. Betty #2 is babyish and impossibly lonely learning to find her pussy using a mirror; #3 a motor-mouthed lesbian uses the word pussy until the word loses its oomph, and #s 4 and 5 are preoccupied with mechanics, one tattooed, the other a Latin lover recently released from prison who owns a boxing gym.

When #1, a sublime Dana Delany, wants to have a dinner party, a red chair drops from the rafters. This absurdist world will explore, as an author’s note boasts, pussy as if it were Antarctica and you are Shackleton. Along the way, an attempt at theater—“thea-tah”– will bring this group to Midsummer Night’s Dream tropes, with Betty #4, the usually hilarious Lea Delaria, somber, playing the Wall. Adina Verson, Ana Villafane, and Chaunte Wayans fill out this cast. Much happens along the way ending in a wild party, and the ultimate “Dream” solo performance.

Whew! There’s a lot to unpack in this loud, in-your-face, queer drama, under Mike Donahue’s direction. You may not experience Shackleton’s sense of adventure. Antarctica may not be your ultimate frontier. After a performance this week, an exuberant audience sprang to standing ovation, and one viewer had already seen it twice. Clearly, the Betties are speaking to someone. Maybe it’s just semantics, but when did we stop talking about vaginas?


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