Bitch bold and biting
Bitch. (Perception. Reality. Execution.)
KC Fringe Festival
This is about the lives and supposed crimes of four women who are put to death by their governments. It is also about the perception of women and how they can be constricted and treated unjustly by society. I don't know how to describe the style of the piece, but it is not realistic. It uses symbolism and hard-edged poetic choral speaking and stylistic staging. There is strong language. Be warned; this is not for conservative tastes.
It opens with woman after woman emerging from backstage to a spoken chorus led by an MC, all chanting the technical description of the menstrual cycle. Wait, I thought this show was about 4 women. Who are all these people?
Because of the style of the show, the confusion is intriguing rather than off-putting. But I think the show could benefit from editing the opening. It goes on rather a long time without knowing who people are or why they are doing what they are. The presentation is unusual enough to keep me interested, but not necessary to be so long.
Each woman has a partner, whose purpose varies. Mrs. Surratt, the supposed President killer, has her daughter Mary; Mata Hari the spy and supposed double-agent slut, has her other life, the wife; the partners of Marie Antoinette, the spoiled queen with perhaps bad PR, and Anne Askew, the heretic guilty only of having a mind of her own and expressing it, are less clear in their identities.
Standout performers are the Anne Askew with the expanding costume (I don't want to give away the effect) and the red-haired Mata Hari. But all the actors commit to the style of the piece and add strong, resonant voices to the choral reading.
The costumes are strange at first; but the script gradually reveals that the costumes are suggestive of the time period and character, and some even of the manner of death. Two of the costumes, in particular, are used to great effect: Anne Askew's more colorful one, and the long front of the daughter Mary's. I will not spoil the impact of their use, but do watch for these moments.
The script is not linear, and revisits some characters before starting the stories of others. Sometimes characters die and then later tell more of their stories. I think the show could benefit from some editing later in the show, during this confusion of who is dead but talking and who hasn't even been introduced yet.
I am very impressed with their use of the small facility. I wish this could have been performed in a larger space. But they work wonders with their limitations and present a kaleidoscope of intriguing stage pictures.