Writer: Kristiana Rae Colón
Director: Sherri Eden Barber
Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell
In February, Amazon Prime released a four-part documentary, Lorena, a close look at the 1993 news story about Lorena Bobbitt’s literal castration of her husband. In 1993, the story was mostly a prolonged dick joke, but Joshua Rofé’s documentary reminds us that John Wayne Bobbitt physically, sexually, and psychologically abused his wife for years before she fought back. The Flea’s current production of Kristiana Rae Colón’s good friday, directed by Sherri Eden Barber, reminds us that in the past twenty-five years, media treatment of women who turn violent hasn’t changed all that much, even if we have better toys to report it.
Good Friday opens in a women’s studies classroom where grad student and adjunct instructor Asha (Erin Noll) is leading a discussion with students Ariel (Dolores Avery), Kinzie (Caturah Brown), Crete (Ure Egbuho), and Sophia (Raiane Cantisano). Ariel antagonizes her classmates, in particular Crete, who is more focused on her rugby player boyfriend than women’s empowerment. Kinzie and Asha defend Crete, while Sophia, a devout Catholic, looks to make sense of the discussion in light of her faith. Suddenly, the sound of gunshots disrupts everything. The four women are trapped in the classroom, listening to gunshots. When the shooter breaks into their classroom, they are all shocked to learn that it’s a woman, Emme (Clea DeCrane), aided by her friend Natalie (Pearl Shin). The hostages learn why Emme went on a shooting rampage and what results is a sometimes violent exploration of rape culture on college campuses, women taking revenge on those who have wronged them, and the difficulty of controlling one’s own narrative in the age of hashtag activism.
Good friday starts with a curtain speech that invites the audience to take a collective breath together before the show starts. Take advantage of that invitation because this show is unrelenting. Even before the shooting starts, everyone is talking at once onstage; when three conversations, large parts of them yelled, are happening simultaneously, it’s hard to focus. This resolves some once the gunshots start. Performances are solid, in particular Clea DeCrane’s Emme and Caturah Brown’s Kinzie. In terms of production, Jess Medenbach’s projections clearly illustrate how events unfold online and sound designer Megan Deets Culley effectively orchestrates the sound of the violence unfolding around them. Kate Noll’s set design captures the feel of a crappy college classroom that’s a combination of old furniture and new technology.
This play brings to mind not only the Lorena Bobbitt case, but also William Mastrosimone’s 1982 play Extremities, in which a woman overpowers her would-be rapist and takes him prisoner. Her attacker, like John Wayne Bobbitt in Rofé’s documentary, reveals that he was abused. Colón, on the other hand, doesn’t give the rapists a voice, focusing entirely on the pain and trauma of their victims. Her play is stronger for it. Good friday isn’t perfect—it’s rough around the edges. Survivors of sexual assault or gun violence may find some of the events described onstage too much for them. The Flea takes multiple steps to prepare and care for their audience, but that doesn’t change the fact that this play is unrelenting and violent. It’s also important. It’s easy to look at good friday and think that Colón is trying to address too much in one play—rape culture, school shootings, campus politics, hashtag activism—but that’s the point. All of these things come at us the second we look at the news, the moment we log into social media. All of these things lie in wait on our phones and unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t come with a trigger warning.
Runs until 25 March 2019 | Image: Joan Marcus