REVIEW: RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN
at Local Lab Theater Company
by Devon James
THE RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN, by Michael Yates Crowley is a modern day reflection of an incident in Roman mythology where the Romans abducted the neighboring Sabine women, and took them as their own. They married them, impregnated them, and created more and more of their lineage. This play speaks to the power that men have had in our society since the beginning of time; their history of taking any and all things they desire. We’ve come a long way, but these are fires we may spend a lifetime putting out, and this piece of theatre reminds us of all the coals burning and buried beneath the surface.
When most people think of “rape,” they think of violence, force, horror, and struggle. In fact, some of us are so ingrained with what we believe rape to be that we often discount it, brush it off, make excuses, or deny the truth of our own experience. Rape is defined by being any kind of sexual intercourse that happens without consent or ability to give valid consent. This means that more often than not, people are raped by people they know, love, and trust. It is even quite common for people to attempt or actively continue relationships with their rapists. Consent is where we get lost in translation, especially when we add in “ability to give valid consent.” These blurred lines are where we find most denial, victim backlash, and truly what I believe to be the crux of this play. Cowley strips his central character, Grace B. Matthias (Adeline Mann) completely down…literally…and drags her through a series of quests of breaking the stereotype, being encouraged to fit her story into expectations by both her lawyer (Cajardo Lindsey) and her Guidance Counselor (Mare Trevathan), body shaming, and parental neglect until she finally learns to take the reins and stand for herself.
The beauty of this script is that there are moments that you may find yourself “that person” questioning the authenticity of her story. You may see yourself in one of the characters and be faced with memories of your own events, or times you have taken positions that perpetuated this behavior and culture. You may see your son or daughter in these young men and women or you may even feel yourself shutting down completely. The youthful, almost children’s theatre style to the writing is brilliant in the way that people can often be less guarded when receiving truth through comedic and childlike approaches.
It is especially important to cast a piece like this just right, and Director, Christy Montour-Larson is the perfect person for that job. She always knows how to match the frequency of the character with the actor, and has a gift of bringing the spirit of a play to life. It can be a challenge to get your entire ensemble into the same World in a piece like this, but her keen instincts have yet to disappoint me. Larson pulled together a stellar cast of supporting actors. Such incredible specificity and distinction of a multitude of characters delivered by Rodney Lizcano, Cajardo Lindsey, Matthew Schneck, and Mare Trevathan. Brynn Tucker’s portrayal of Monica was a bit overplayed, but her Hersilia is perfectly grounded, and her version of “I’m On Fire” rivals this Bruce Springsteen fan’s love of the original. Peter Henry Bussian certainly pulled out a believable, overcompensating D-Bag, but I would like to see him lean in a bit more with the struggles of his sexuality; get more raw. “Jeff” is quite a challenging role, because we need to love him. We need to believe he is respected within the Community, yet leave enough to question his potential. Erik Fellenstein pulls this off exceptionally. Adeline Mann, gives us a beautifully flawed, and delicately crafted “Grace.” I would have loved to see more of the innocent moments substituted with sense of distraction, but what we get is an honest and thought provoking journey that gets us exactly where we should be. Larson, and Scenic Designer, Susan Crabtree certainly seemed to have fun navigating this design. It was fun, fresh, and well-orchestrated. Topped off by some beautiful lighting (Shannon McKinney & Evan Mues), and creatively costumed by Rachel Finley.
We may spend a lifetime putting out the fires we started long ago, but what THE RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN leaves us with is an opportunity to have the conversation. The more we chose to ignore circumstances that are easier to sweep under the rug and the longer we chose to hide behind the culture of what has been and keep our voices silent in fear of consequence, the more we contribute to the fuel of all that is burning.
The play makes its regional premiere at the Dairy Arts Center and runs through November 19, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.localtheaterco.org or call (303) 444-7328. Performances run Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 4pm. A special Monday performance will be held on Monday, November 13.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
PHOTO CREDIT: George Lange