Regional Reviews: San Diego
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
For most of its running time, the production is structured as a series of short stories involving women (almost none of them with character names) and the issues, including sex, commitment and work, that they experience. Birch's first three tales include an uncomfortably intimate night between two people (Charly Montgomery and Salvador Velasco), a vignette involving two individuals who share different views on marriage (Carla Navarro and Velasco), and a comedic story in which an employee (Claudette Santiago) tells her boss (Velasco) that she wants Mondays off from work.
Up until this point, Birch's writing is easy to comprehend, darkly funny and profane. The overall tone of the work changes during the next story about a mentally unstable woman, (Kirstiana Rosas) and the aftermath of an incident in which she was naked in a grocery store. Once the protagonist launches into a somewhat revealing monologue, the play becomes more open ended and the tone turns even angrier, with almost no levity and humor. Following a final plot with a mother (Kathi Copeland) who abandoned her daughter (Montgomery), the last half hour or so consists of sentences, speeches, and brief conversations that are frequently hard to decipher.
Running for a little under 90 minutes, Pappas' version of the play is an appropriate length for something so ambiguous and abstract. She incorporates emotional choreography by Patrick Mayuyu, along with props, such as a table and red string, to heighten the tenseness of the piece. As haunting as Birch's dialogue may be, the production wouldn't be anywhere near as successful without Pappas' crisp and well-realized storytelling. Other crew members' contributions, including sound designer and Co-Artistic Director Carla Nell's use of songssuch as a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" and Arvo Pärt's composition "Spiegel im Spiegel"and Eric Ward's anxiety-inducing lighting, help generate a raw style. Projectionist James M. McCullock's use of story titles and Ashley Rauras and Robert Malave's set incorporate words that heighten the defiant nature of the interpretation.
Every one of the five leads are featured heavily in Birch's tales, and they play with different shades of fury and sorrow. Montgomery, Navarro and Santiago can be simultaneously funny and uncomfortable to watch, while Rosas and Copeland powerfully depict disturbing material in their big sequences. As the sole male actor onstage, Velasco portrays different kinds of men ranging from sympathetic to sketchy. All of the actors are for almost the entire show, and occasionally walk by the theatregoers. The way they use the venue creates an intimate experience that's not always possible in theatre.
Not everything in Birch's writing will make sense on a first viewing, yet there are a number of messages and themes that can be relevant in the 21st century. Issues such as flawed depictions of women in the media, objectification, sexual assault, and sexism, among others, are brought up at various points in the evening. A lack of character names and the heavy use of ensemble work, especially in the final third of the play, help Birch's prose feel universal to all types of women. Problems brought up aren't pretty or comforting, and that's the point. She wants people to be aware of why everyone should be furious with the unfair way women can be treated.
Passionately performed, directed and written, InnerMission's first show of the 2018-2019 season is nothing short of bold. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. defies the rules of conventional theatre.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., through September 29, 2018, at InnerMission Productions, 4545 Park Blvd., San Diego CA. Performs Sundays through Saturdays. Tickets start at $15.00 and can be purchased online at www.innermissionproductions.org or by phone at 619-324-8970.