Reviewed by Michael Edwards
Do You Feel Anger?, at the Atwater Village Theatre, is a brilliant play. On the surface, it's extremely funny, but not too far beneath we find ourselves in the middle of a discussion that some might find deeply troubling. As these culture wars continue and the generational shift from Baby Boomer gaze to whatever comes after Gen Z continues its unfolding; the clear, if not infuriating and damn near 'Brechtian' voice of playwright Mara Nelson-Greenberg inspires great hope for the future of theater.
Set in, what apparently must be, a mythical, toxic workplace (A Debt Collection Agency to be specific) where an Empathy Coach, Sofia (an on point and magnetic Paula Rebelo) is brought in by Jon the manager, a witty, fun, unabashedly indulgent Casey Smith, to take a small staff of collection agents through a process designed to increase overall office efficiency. At outset, the staff, four characters; Eva, played by a dynamic, brilliant, and creatively grounded Tasha Ames, is an abused, put upon female who suffers so much natural male misogyny in her work place, that she isn't quite sure what's real or what the next lie she needs to tell herself and her abusers to keep both sane and employed; And then the two 'horny', completely out of control, thinly veiled, full on sexual predators that make up the rest of the staff forced to take this course; Howie, a brave, raw and courageous Rich Liccardo and Jordan, played by Napoleon Tavale with a sharp, sadistic smile and quick, passionate wit.
At first, Sofia the instructor seems to have her work cut out for her as we are clear who the 'villains' are in the two men and who the victim is in the woman, but then things get worse. The men get worse. The male entitlement gets worse. The entire stage becomes an out of control, dystopian hell hole for women, and then it starts to dawn on you what the playwright is trying to say, and what she says is direct, surprising and unexpected.
Additional cast members, Jan Munroe, Rose Portillo and Charlotte Gulezian, selflessly support the play with seemingly out of nowhere diatribes that beautifully unify the playwright's very powerful overall message.
Light and sound design are seamless and professional, with special effect surprises that will make you smile. Circle X Theatre Company's excellent production of Do You Feel Anger? at the Atwater Village Theater runs through February 25th. Do not miss it.