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Men are Bitches

By Patrick Hurley

 

The sensationalizing of violence in America gets a politically incorrect, maniacally brutal, but somehow proper skewering in Bitches playing now through November 2, at the Acting Artists Theater.Bitches 3Originally written in 1993, right around the same time Jerry Springer was becoming a cultural phenomenon, this play is slightly dated in its references and pre-cell phone lingo, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter. The episodic style of the play, which makes it feel more like sketch comedy than a narrative, keeps raising the level of insanity of not only the characters, but the story itself, and by the end we’re left with a catharsis that is something of a B-movie-of-the-week (something that doesn’t exist, but should)/South Park hybrid. And who doesn’t want to see that?

Oh yeah, and it’s about a group of high school girls, all played by older men. In fact, the entire cast are men, and they are all playing women. Mean girl Sindee Sandstone (Drew Droege) is the Queen bee at Susan B. Anthony High School. She is a senior on her way to becoming head of the cheerleading squad, as well as Queen of the formal dance that is approaching. Enter too-good-to-be-true Angelatina (Matt Valle), who steps in and takes both titles away from Sindee. Crushed and enraged (really, really enraged) Sindee enlists her equally enraged mother Charlene (Sam Pancake) to help seek revenge on the “perfect” Angelatina.

A local tabloid television hostess, Paula Demarcato (Ralph Cole, Jr.) catches wind of the rivalry at the school and steps in by trying to stir up drama, to beef up her own ratings. Meanwhile, Angelatina and her mother Vera (Wonderfully subtle Jim Blanchette) go about their lives, ignorant of the hatred aimed in their directions. Vera is also in a gardening competition with Sindee’s mother Charlene, and their rivalry is almost entirely one-sided.

What follows is a series of scenes where Sindee and her “friends,” or underlings might be more appropriate, devise ways in which to destroy Angelatina. All of their devious ideas end up blowing up in their faces, and Sindee’s rage eventually leads to a bloody rampage.

Writer/Director Sean Abley infuses nearly every minute of this show with enough energy to power a small city. There are hysterics, fist fights, and one of the most ridiculous stage slaps you’ll ever see. The actors, at one time or another during the show, all look insane because of the level of focus they must reach in order to hit the ridiculous energy of this show.bitches

Playing out like a late-night cult film, one that you can imagine an audience participating in, this play delivers enough laughs to keep the audience engaged. Some of the moments don’t work, but you’ve got to admire the cast for maintaining the level they do for two hours. None more so than Drew Droege, whose Sindee is a nasty, vociferous rage monster. He captures all the essence and demeanor of a teenage sociopath. The moments where he truly excels were not when he was screaming or throwing a tantrum, but the in-between moments when he looks at other characters with a venomous disdain that can only be described as artful.

Sam Pancake is hilarious as Charlene, the martini-swilling, sharp tongued mother of Sindee. He, like Mr. Droege is quite gifted at giving reactions. His looks speak much louder than any lines of dialogue ever could, and he is so much fun to watch because you want to see all of his reactions.

Jim Blanchette is the only member of the cast that allows his character to be a character, and the payoff is that he actually receives our empathy. In a show like this that is an enormous feat. His quietness is more effective than all the screaming and ranting that goes on around him. He captures so much more with so much less. The paradox being that he is the exception that proves the rule, if everyone else portrayed these characters in the same way, the show would fall flat on its face.

This is not a show that anyone will be able to take anything away from, nor is it one that teaches us any lessons. It’s hard to believe that anyone looking for such things will buy a ticket to something called Bitches, but you never know. This is a wildly ridiculous bit of fun. A head-shaking, eye-rolling, laugh-filled exercise in futility. But sometimes, and let’s be honest, isn’t that really enough?


Bitches

By Sean Abley

 

Acting Artists Theater

7313 Santa Monica Blvd.

West Hollywood, CA 90046

 

October 3-November 2

 

Admission $25

800.838.3006

http://bitchsplay.brownpapertickets.com

 

**Suggested for audiences ages 16 and up

 

 

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