DISCLAIMER: We, at BITRSisters, work in the theater community and want it to be a safe space for all individuals. We are aware of the allegiations made in the past against this company. We are also aware that Iron Crow has taken immense strides to make their working environment a positive, safe, and structured one. Several artists we love and respect have worked for them and reported nothing but the kindest and highest praise. We reviewed the latest show, Collective Rage, below with an open mind. We, as always, welcome thoughtful and constructive comments to our reviews.
“Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties”, presented as the first show of Iron Crow’s 10th season, follows the lives of five womxn all named Betty and the ways their lives intersect with one another. Betty 1 is a rich alcoholic who has lived a life without any examination or introspection and can be sent into an anxiety induced spiraling by the evening news. Betty 2 is so steeped in angst and loneliness that she resorts to talking to her hand puppet since she has no friends. Betty 3 is a superstar wannabe working behind the Sephora counter. Betty 4 is a sensitive soul who also loves working on her truck. And Betty 5, a genderqueer male presenting but okay with feminine pronouns, has lived her life completely walled in for self preservation.
The play is a tight 90 minutes where Jen Silverman methodically exposes these characters to one another and examines how their interactions and collective experiences catapult them into a new world of self-discovery and empowerment.
Director Natka Bianchini excels at milking this play for every gem it has. Bianchini exhibits a precise understanding of the demands of the text, leaning into the queer form and poking at the structures of traditional theatre to present these characters and messages. She guides the actors to all craft transcendent character arcs, across the board beginning as general stereotypes and quickly evolving into empowered archetypes and three-dimensional characters.
Perhaps the most compellingly executed journey was that of Betty 2, played by Ann Turiano. Turiano nailed the eccentricities of her vaguely neurotic, overly anxious, severely lonely character. From the beginning Turiano plays Betty with a rich inner life so it’s clear that there’s a deep longing for something that they can’t even name themselves, but it’s buried under this façade that a patriarchal society demands she adorn. Watching Turiano bring Betty 2 through her journey of empowerment is one of the highlights of the evening.
Asia-Ligé Arnold as Betty 3 has formidable star power on the stage, and dominates every scene she’s in as a Sephora employee who realizes her ambition to become an actor, director, playwright, activist, influencer, and so on and so on. Even though there was not as much of a character transformation as the script might request, Arnold shines in the show with her charisma and star quality.
Hana Clarice, the sensitive souled Betty 4 who loves working on her truck, brought such a beautiful simplicity to the show with every word flowing from her heart to the audience. There were a few missed opportunities for Clarice to really lean into the comedy as well as some of the tenser moments (especially in a scene between her and Betty 3 towards the end) but there was such vulnerability throughout that any missed opportunity is overshadowed by Clarice’s generally truthful performance.
Rena Marie, as Betty 5, showcased a great level of nuanced skill. It’s never easy to play a character who is walled off from the world. The challenge is to create a stoic character that still has constant internal movement to keep an audience engaged. For the most part Marie pulls this off exquisitely. Although it took a moment to get there, by the end of the play I was utterly enraptured with the complex and subtle work being done.
Rounding out the all womxn ensemble is Allyson Boate as Betty 1, the alcoholic upper-class Betty who is constantly worked into a state of frenzy by watching the news and having a husband who couldn’t care less about her mental or emotional state. Boate had a brilliant technical hold on the character but at times her performance could veer into a hollow rendering of the character. However, Boate was strongest and most grounded when working off of Rena Marie in scenes between the two Betties, they’re relationship was magical to watch unfold.
Overall Iron Crow has presented a respectably successful queer work of theatre. Collective Rage is more important now than ever, a show all about womxn defying the roles put on them and giving themselves permission to take up as much space as they want in this world, is a message and a reminder that we need now more than ever. Iron Crow has come out of the gate swinging for the first show of their 10th season and I can’t wait to see what else they do.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Unfortunately due to scheduling restraints we weren’t able to see Collective Rage until the second to last performance, so the show has already closed. However if the quality of this production is any indicator of how the rest of the season will be, run don’t walk, to Iron Crow’s next show. (B)
Running through 9/15 at Theater Project. About 90 minutes with no intermission.