Badass by Sleeping Weazel Productions in residence at Boston Playwrights’ Theater (4 stars)

BADASS runs March 5–14, 2015 (Thursday through Saturdays only) at 8:00 pm at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. It is comprised of three performance pieces: 

  • Shameless to the Bone – Written and Performed by Magdalena Gómez; Lighting by Emily Bearce
  • The Tempest (or Bark’s Dream) – Written by Kate Snodgrass; Performed by Steven Barkhimer; Directed by Melia Bensussen; Lighting by Emily McCourt; Sound by David Remedios
  • Jazz’n Class: A Performance Meditation – Written and Performed by Robbie McCauley; Set and Costume by Mirta Tocci; Lighting by Emily McCourt; Sound by Oliver Seagle

Sleeping Weazel Productions, currently in residence at Boston Playwrights’ Theater, presents a celebration of Women’s History Month with an avant-garde presentation.  Three experienced playwrights, artists, and teachers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, who also happen to be women (Magdalena Gómez, Robbie McCauley and Kate Snodgrass), come together to share “badass” versions of womanhood.  While all focus on female experience and point of view, the three pieces of original work are distinct and not meant to connect to one another, beyond all being somewhat existential and certainly pushing the envelope beyond what is mainstream.

At times, witty words and verbal banter moved so quickly that I only had time to laugh before the next line or joke. My impressions of this show are easier to explain than to recall exact details about it.  The minimal set (a basket for one, a bed for another, and stool for the last), coupled with the brevity of performance (about 30 minutes each) and intensity of laughter at almost every turn, made me feel like I was in a comedy club on Middle-Aged Women Night.  I fit right in.  The full house, however, revealed an audience that ranged in age and gender beyond the background presented by the performing artists on stage.

The first piece, Shameless to the Bone is my favorite. Magdalena Gómez reads from her play.  Her strong Latina activist voice embraces reality with outrageous and hysterical ideas. Her witty observations veer from poignant to political over a range of topics.  The spoken word aspect of her presentation oozes a hunger for equity. She describes herself as having a “hard on for economic justice” and proceeded to bend my mind with her quips. “What if an egg could detect a sperm who is unfit to parent?” Wouldn’t that be a neat trick?

The second piece, The Tempest (or Bark’s Dream) exemplifies the existential challenges of the night, “I disembowel you with the power of my shamelessness.”  It offers less personal impact, maybe because it is the only piece with a man or because it is least concerned with issues on the ethnic/racial diversity front.  Breaking the third wall and playing with the concepts of theater and truth telling, the performance is well received by the audience, who obviously enjoyed the intellectual jousting. Finally, though, the piece reveals its heart, that “truth is hard to come at directly” and that all drama arises ultimately from considerations of mortality.  The juxtaposition of Shakespeare and a hospital setting is interesting.

I enjoyed the final installment, Jazz’n Class about a mother/daughter relationship, which also happens to be biopic. Robbie McCauley’s character knows her ancestors’ story, even though she hasn’t been to Africa, and ponders how to convey an entire cultural history to her daughter.  Her jazz movements are meditative, free flowing yoga-type as she tells tales of race and social class.  As in all the night’s performances, the word play and puns are gripping – as when she pairs “malevolence” with “male violence.”

BADASS is a collaborative production written with integrity and fearlessness by a trio of women who have earned their “badassness” through their personal lifetime of experiences, illuminating sexist, racist, and classist aspects of society.

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