Near the beginning of “Good Friday,” a play by Kristiana Rae Colon produced at The Flea with an all-female cast, crew and creative team, there’s something I’ve never seen on stage before: After a group of female college students finish discussing Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” one of them stands up to reveal she’s having her period, and dripping blood. Her classmates scramble to help her, emptying their purses to find wipes and a tampon.
The scene promises a fresh play with a provocative female sensibility. But, soon after, the students hear gunshots. Suddenly the play is about a school shooting. Then, it twists into something else (which would surely be considered a spoiler for me to reveal in any detail.) By the end of its ninety minutes, “Good Friday” has presented an uneasy mix of manifesto and mayhem, its bell hooks-like intellectual feminist discourse overshadowed by an awkwardly staged Thelma and Louise violent revenge fantasy.
“Good Friday” is best treated as a kind of organizing tool to explore the issues raised by what it considers our society’s “rape culture.” Many of the observations are deliberately in-your-face: “Men only listen to one language, the tongue of bullets and guns and blood,” one character says. Another concurs, comparing the plight of women with that of slaves – and poses the question of whether the way to end women’s oppression might be the same as what it took to end slavery…violence.
A character criticizes academics for failing to take action: “…you don’t get to add some letters to your resume theorizing about a freedom you’re too weak to GRAB ….while women aspiring to a place at your table drag mattresses to class for a stab at justice.” Most of these confrontational views are paired with counterarguments by other characters.
For all the debating, the production is unmistakably a professional work of theater. The design elements work well in tandem. The characters are vividly drawn and well portrayed by seven young members of the BATS, the Flea Theater’s resident acting company. Ariel (Delores Avery) is a blunt-speaking wisecracker, providing the playwright a vehicle for some witty lines. Similarly, Sophia (Raiane Cantisano), deeply religious, helps Colon establish a Christian symbolism focused on blood – which works better than I might have expected.
The play’s major plot twist also effectively comments on the assumptions and expectations about gender.
Yet the tone of much of “Good Friday” is fundamentally at odds with the circumstances. The pulpy surface action renders too much of the political/intellectual discussion less than credible; how much would you be discussing feminist theory – or, in fact, talking about anything — during a school shooting?
Written by Kristiana Rae Colón
Directed by Sherri Eden Barber
Kate Noll (Scenic Designer), Christelle Matou (Costume Designer), Paige Seber (Lighting Designer), Megan Deets Culley (Sound Designer), Rocio Mendez (Violence/Intimacy Choreographer), Jess Medenbach (Projections Designer) and Haley Gordon (Stage Manager).
Cast: Dolores Avery, Caturah Brown, Raiane Cantisano, Clea DeCrane, Ure Egbuho, Erin Noll and Pearl Shin
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission
Theater tickets: $32 – $102
Good Friday is on stage through March 18, 2019