WHAT IS THE QUESTION?
by Harvey Perr
published February 27, 2009
That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play
now playing Off Broadway at the Rattlestick Theater
through March 15
If you took a photo of the laughing audience at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, that’s me, Mona Lisa, in the center. All
right, maybe it’s an exaggeration to say that I was the only unsmiling member of the audience, but I certainly felt alienated from whatever
laughter I did hear during Sheila Callaghan’s That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play.
I am not even sure I’m qualified to review this play since I wasn’t certain that I knew what was going on within its very loose
framework or what was being said (it is not that language eludes me but the play seems to be written in the language of today which means
that it sounds like sound bites rather than dialogue, a scattershot collection of random ugly thoughts, not terribly revealing and not
terribly lucid). What I got is that men treat women like shit, that women go on murderous sprees killing the men who treat them like shit,
and that men, in their natural stupidity, write blogs about these sprees which are turned into successful screenplays. In the end, the
writer, in a Q&A after a screening, answers some questions from the audience. We don’t hear the questions but we can guess from Greg
Keller’s wonderfully loony facial responses just what those questions are. It’s the last question I couldn’t guess at. Perhaps because,
finally, I was having a bit of fun, watching Keller grapple with it.
Jane Fonda figures in this, too, not as the potent and political feminist she once was, but as the workout exercise trainer she
became. I wondered if this was some sort of commentary on what even serious professional women like Ms. Fonda are reduced to in our culture,
or whether it was a rebuke that Ms. Fonda had willingly reduced herself into donning tights in order to make money. Either is a valid point
of view; it would just be interesting to know if either or neither was intended.
Narelle Sissons is one of our best scenic designers, and her flexible all-purpose room deserves special mention.
So, amid all that laughter, one lonely old reviewer sat there, feeling as if this was the most witless and pointless play he has
seen in a long while. I have a feeling that its author, Ms. Callaghan, has something on her mind, and I wish she’d tell us what is or shut
up. Because, if this a voice of the future, I worry seriously about where theater is headed.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com