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Theater review: Summerworks Festival 2016's Every Angel Is Brutal

Every Angel Is Brutal
Photograph: Elke Young

Every Angel is Brutal: Theater review by Helen Shaw

Are you having trouble waiting for the new Ghostbusters movie? Are you hoping Black Widow gets her standalone movie? Do you wish they'd just reboot Alias already​? Then you share my bottomless appetite for women kicking ass. My advice? Hie thee to the first installment in the Clubbed Thumb Summerworks festival, Every Angel Is Brutal. It's not just that Julia Jarcho (Grimly Handsome) is one of our more compelling playwrights; it's that Angel mashes up all the action-lady tropes of pop culture objects like La Femme Nikita and (of course) the play's titular inspiration, Charlie's Angels, and then imports the whole shebang into downtown experimental theater. That, naturally, is where it gets really weird.

There's a lot happening in Angel, including Pete Simpson as a slimy “Charlie” type who sends his saucy fighting trio (Amelia Workman, Jenny Seastone and Jiehae Park) into shoot-’em-up mayhem in Berlin. In true pulp fashion, Jarcho and director Knud Adams are in thrall to their cinematic inspirations, and there are enough training montages (à la Nikita) set to pulsing German pop (à la Run Lola Run) to content the fiercest heart. But Jarcho's looking at the girl-fighter archetype with a cynical eye. What kind of vicarious masochism (or sadism) is it that makes us want to watch women fight? Is a fantasy about women who can take a punch really that empowering? In her increasingly troubling thriller, Jarcho lets the genre fun go sour. One character undergoes such shocking torture that she turns into something that's half-vulture, half-Valkyrie. Jarcho’s thriller-com winds up asking whether all that violence has transformed the audience, too.—Helen Shaw

Wild Project (Off-Off Broadway). By Julia Jarcho. Directed by Knud Adams. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 25mins. No intermission. 

 

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