By Michele Markarian
‘Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again’ – Written by Alice Birch. Directed by Summer L. Williams. Presented by Company One Theatre, Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston through November19.
In the opening scene of “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again” a woman (Becca A. Lewis) turns the seductive tables on a man (Jeff Marcus), making aggressive sexual moves that render him passive. It’s a hilarious, provocative scene, predator versus prey, and the best one in the play. From here, despite the efforts of a very talented and committed cast and Summer L. William’s taut direction, the show devolves into something I couldn’t really comprehend or relate to.
The play consists of different scenes regarding a feminist response to societal expectations like work, marriage, and motherhood, ultimately leading to a point where in order to fully break free of the shackles of servitude, women had to eliminate men. Not a farfetched theory, and one that’s been acted out in different ways with different groups (it brought to mind Amiri Baraka’s renunciation of the white world and his white wife in the 1960’s in order to reclaim his black identity). But the ending doesn’t wrap itself up with any kind of conviction or resolution – the women aren’t pleased with having to do this, although they agree it’s necessary.
I read in the program notes that Birch, a 30-year old playwright from the United Kingdom, used the text of Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto as inspiration for the play. The manifesto argues that men have ruined the world, and need to be disposed of. Birch apparently disagrees with the premise, which is where I think Revolt. She Said. Revolt., or at least this production of it, falls short. If you can’t agree with the argument you are presenting, then it’s satire, right? Which, if it were meant to be satire, doesn’t come across – for the most part, there is an underlying anger and commitment to the material that seems more sincere than satirical.
But this is truly an ensemble piece, and the cast is superb. Becca A. Lewis is amazing, one of the more versatile and fearless female performers I’ve seen onstage in a long time. She runs the gamut from funny to angry to heartbreaking. Brave soul Jeff Marcus is the only male onstage, and he does a great job being rejected as well as rejecting. Ally Dawson and Christa Brown both play a variety of roles with the appropriate grace, and/or discomfort. It’s not an easy show, and very physical – the actors draw fake blood several times. Brown manages to realistically vomit; Lewis pours a bucket of water over her head. This, in addition to the already uncomfortable material, made this audience member even more uncomfortable. I found myself thinking things like, “Somebody’s going to roll around in that vomit and soil their costume” or “I hope this show is almost over, because that actress is going to catch a cold from the bucket of water”. Maternal thoughts, because in spite of our best feminist ideology, some impulses can’t be broken. For more info, go to: https://companyone.org/