Reviewed by Vanessa Cate
Pop Up Theatre, Inc.
Through February 24th
Julie Rodgers (Emma Chandler) has had a rough day. She’s been laid off at work for not returning her boss’s inappropriate advances. Darlene Craviotto’s play was written in the 1980s, so there was far less recourse a woman could take at that time. Perhaps that is why Emma is pounding a slew of beers, yelling at her neighbor, and throwing things against walls in her apartment. Frustrations have mounted to the breaking point, and she’s coming apart at the seams.
Emma’s roommate Alice Meyerlink (Raleigh West) has had a rough day herself. Her lover has dumped her, in favor of his wife. Alice seeks to console herself by emotional eating. The pair, though at odds with their coping mechanisms and communication styles, try their best to be there for each other while venting their woes.
Emma puts words to her angst, and declares that the two women must find a man to invite over and rape.
Whoa. Wait a minute.
Flash forward to 2018. Social movements are at a fever pitch, and #MeToo is on everyone’s lips. Is this the misguided inspiration for producing a play which is not only pro-rape but inherently sexist?
Rape is not funny. Rape is not acceptable. Art that expresses the frustrations of women is vital and important. But a play that condones women raping a man not only gives a totally misguided interpretation of feminism but misses the point of the #MeToo movement altogether.
The attitude of the play takes no responsibility for these women’s actions. They kidnap and threaten a man and physically assault him. It does not matter if it is two petite women trying to assault one larger man. This is a “comedy” that, at least in this production, lacks the self-awareness to make any sort of statement accompanying the vulgarity.
Some of Craviotto’s dialogue is funny or insightful, and the ensemble turn in strong performances. The play was staged smartly inside an actual loft space in Hollywood, directed with finesse by Jamie Lou. Which makes the production all the more disappointing because it looks so good while glossing over any potential irony or insight.
Art is varied, and should not be censored (although proper warnings are nice, especially for sexual assault survivors, and the press release billed the play as a “descent into comedic chaos”, neatly leaving out the heft of the plot), but the immature decision to stage a play showcasing sexual assault as a means to let out frustration is as glib as it is reactionary. Combined with the almost passive aggressive pre-show (a projected music video of women singing about how they hate all men and fake advertisements plastered in the restroom showing women dominating men), plus a slew of sexist dialogue (for instance, can we not make fun of a size 2 woman for being fat?), this play misses both of theater’s higher goals – to incite or inspire. If Pizza Man has achieved any of art’s strivings, it is to entertain. But to be entertained by this kind of content makes us as an audience complicit in the apparent endorsement of abuse.
Pop Up Theater, Inc. at The Loft Space in Hollywood, 5426 Flemish Lane, Los Angeles, 90029; Performances Fridays & Saturdays 8 p.m.; Through February 24; thepopuptheater.org; Running time: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes with one intermission