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Five Bettys In a Rage

Jen Silverman proves her mettle in Collective Rage: a play in 5 Boops, that is joyous, raucous and raunchy, while also providing a miniature History of Feminism from the 60s and 70s to now… on the upper East Side of New York.  Both delightful and funny (especially as cleverly directed by Lindsay Allbaugh), Rage invokes the iconic image of Betty Boop to invoke a time when class considerations kept suppressed upper class women in the dark about the their own sexuality, and ignorant of both ethnic and gender differences only a few blocks either side of their circumscribed location. It’s a story that has not before been dramatized with Silverman’s unique mix of finesse and humor.

Betty 1 (Elyse Mirto) plays an elegant trophy wife of Charles (“He’s very rich”), and she is very bored.  Her friend, Betty 2 (Courtney Rackley) seems to be similarly married to a man we don’t really learn much about, since he’s usually away…doing something…Betty 2 is not sure what.  Betty 3 (Anna LaMadrid), though, is joyously Puerto Rican.  We’re never sure how she came to know Betty 1 & 2; Betty 1 muses vaguely, “Perhaps she was my nanny.”  In any event, Both 1 & 2 are enticed by Betty 3’s joie de vie into her alternative world after Betty 1 invites her to ‘”The Thea-tuh” and she decides that she is destined for a life in—The Thea-tuh.  Betty 3 enlists Bettys 4 (Karen Anzoategui) & 5 (Tracey A. Leigh) to aid her production of a certain play-within-a-play that involves a Wall, and two of the five women examine their “pussies,” the other three having presumably spent a lot of time down there.

Lindsay Allbaugh brings plenty of sass and pinpoint-precision staging and her inventive use of minimal set and props perpetuates the whimsy that informs the tale. LaMadrid ignites her somewhat stereotypical Latina persona with flair, while both Bettys 3 and 4 are brilliant in their cross-gendered roles.  The story, we find, belongs to Betty 2’s pussy and Rackley goes from mousey to confident with panache. But the sparks belong to Leigh as Betty 4 who finds love (at last) with marvelously icy Mirto. 

Playing against a stylish set by Francois-Pierre Courture, with projection designs by Hana S. Kim, the women can strut their stuff appropriately garbed by Ann Closs-Farley’s costumes. Jenny Smith Cohn’s props play an important role in bringing reality to life on a simple, largely empty stage. Sound, as always for me, augments this project beautifully.

Collective Rage does for “pussies” what Jong’s Fear of Flying did for the zipless you-know-what. Because it puts so bluntly what women spent the better part of a century to reveal, though, I’m just not sure the fine folks in Pasadena are quite ready, even now, to confront this information. But if I have sold them short, they will find themselves charmed and cheered by Silverman’s free-wheeling play.

PHOTO by Ed Krieger: (L-R) Courtney Rackley, Ann LaMadrid, Elyse Mirto.

Collective Rage plays Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday at 2:00 P.M. through March 19, 2017 at Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena 91106. Special performance: Monday, March 6 (Five dollar night- no advance sales!).Tickets are generally $34.00 to $39.00, with discounts for students and seniors.  Phone 626-683-6883 or