Writer: Sarah Elizabeth Grace
Director: Andi Villa Stover
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
Badass Lady Productions’ new play, The Regime is Female, begins by imagining the worst fears about America’s current sociopolitical situation coming to pass. A ten -ear dictatorship, crumbling infrastructure, and abuse of anyone that is not a wealthy, white, cis-het Christian man being sanctioned. It is a lot to take in during those first few moments, especially for anyone seated to in the side seating banks near the walls, because it makes the projections onstage pretty difficult to see in addition to the nightmarish world being created in the intimate space.
After a woman-led resistance creates a virus that wipes out two-thirds of people with XY chromosomes, and the old guard of the dictatorship publicly executed, the seedlings of a new society emerge. This is a world led by women, where crimes that echo the racist, sexist problems of the past are punishable by death at the hands of trained executioners called “supervisors” who kill without weapons. The play is set in 2028, about two years into this new society, in the home/bunker of one of the supervisors, a celebrity whose father was one of the terrible government officials of the past. As River (played by playwright Sarah Elizabeth Grace) comes to terms with her life in this new world – one of isolation with minimal human contact – she speaks to an imagined version of her dead father. As the spectre of her mind attempts to tear her down, River mentors one of her messengers, Sam (Meghan J. Johnson) to also become an executor of justice.
It is when a new messenger arrives, a man named Jack (Ryan Desaulniers), thatr River’s world begins to complicate itself. Sex is forbidden for those dedicated to the regime, especially any men lucky enough to have such prestigious roles in the new society. As River grapples with her feelings, she also literally grapples with Jack. It is in these moments of stage combat that violence coordinator Frank Alfano Jr’s work truly shines. Grace is adept with physical work, and the fight scenes are thrilling in a multitude of ways. The choreography is precise and compelling, and its performance is energetic and very believable.
In addition to the capable performances by the entire cast, The Regime is Female tackles the query of where the cycle of violence stops in creating a just world. When River is faced with the unthinkable as a result of her own actions, she has to decide whether to obey the rules she set out for society as a whole or rebel. Does power have to entail violence? It is inevitable that for anyone to rise, someone else must take the fall? Even if the ethos is “power in the other,” which others get to hold that power? This play is a visceral thought experiment and truly leads the viewer to wonder if peaceful resolution is a true possibility, or a dream that must be set aside in the name of progress.
Runs until 17 November, 2019 | Photo Credit: Sam Auch