You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

That Pretty-Pretty; or, The Rape Play

In the abstract, Sheila Callaghan's offbeat satirical comedy, "That Pretty-Pretty; or, The Rape Play," sounds like outrageous, intelligent fun. A cartoonish comeback to male violence against women, this feminist rant features two strippers who take murderous revenge on right-wing anti-abortionists, and then post their exploits on the Internet.

Agnes - Lisa Joyce Valerie - Danielle Slavick Owen - Greg Keller Rodney - Joseph Gomez Jane Fonda - Annie McNamara

In the abstract, Sheila Callaghan’s offbeat satirical comedy, “That Pretty-Pretty; or, The Rape Play,” sounds like outrageous, intelligent fun. A cartoonish comeback to male violence against women, this feminist rant features two strippers who take murderous revenge on right-wing anti-abortionists, and then post their exploits on the Internet. Among other topics dear to its black heart, show rails against slacker guys who think of women as sex objects and literary guys who write stuff that feeds that perception. But due to self-indulgent writing (that shouldn’t reflect on the game cast), much of the fun is lost in sloppy execution.

Valerie (Danielle Slavick) and Agnes (Lisa Joyce) may be a couple of perpetually high and cheaply dressed (in Jessica Pabst’s amusing costumes) hookers, but they know what makes them mad. “We hate fucking people telling us how to act about our bodies!” screeches Agnes. High-register screeching or screaming are the limited vocal options in this artificially stylized production, helmed by Kip Fagan for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which thrives on this comic style.

When we first meet them, in some anonymous motel room in some state they can’t identify, the girls are stalking their next victim and planning to post the kill on their blog. And when we catch them in the next scene, they illustrate both the murderously manic style that has made them pop culture heroes and the furiously funny thrust of the playwright’s comic vision.

“Maybe I’m afraid of commitment,” Agnes muses, as she manipulates the corpse of the man they have just killed.  “Maybe that’s why I hate on these dudes.”

So long as Callaghan holds her focus on the girls — their outlandish murder techniques and journalistic pretensions; their aggressive contempt for male behaviors and attitudes that infuriate them; their half-assed attempts to justify their vigilante killings on psychological and philosophical grounds — the scribe is on rock-solid ground. But having set up a delicious premise for her play, she seems curiously resistant to submit it to disciplined development. To come up with a plot, in other words.

Instead, she folds the picaresque saga of Valerie and Agnes into another play, a far less interesting piece about two guys who are naturals for the girls’ hit list.

Owen (Greg Keller) is a do-nothing character in the manner of TV sitcom slackers, but not as original. His one dramatically redeeming quality is that he aspires to write a screenplay his mother would be proud of. “I’m an observer of the human condition, regardless of gender,” he says, with an air of smugness that would make any red-blooded woman reach for her gun.

His best friend Rodney (Joseph Gomez), a soldier on leave from duty in Iraq, is a rougher, more volatile specimen of manhood. Helmer Fagan shows flexibility in staging the rape-and-torture scenes that illustrate those unlovely qualities in both men. But the playwright just doesn’t relate to the guys, who are cliched in a way the girls are not.

Not even Jane Fonda, in her feminist glory as motivational exercise queen, can keep the play from dragging in between the rapes and murders. But in a genuinely funny plot invention (which could be even funnier in a more inspired perf than Annie McNamara’s), Callaghan brings on Fonda, in her iconic electric-blue exercise togs, to give it her best shot.

The working conceit is that both Valerie, who writes the blog copy, and Owen, who keeps pounding away at that movie script, look to Fonda for motivation when they have writer’s block. As plot devices go, that’s a keeper — even though it’s hard to believe that the tough-it-out queen would have allowed Callaghan to get away with the imperfect form she shows in this play.

That Pretty-Pretty; or, The Rape Play

Rattlestick Theater; 99 seats; $40 top

Production: A Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presentation of a play in one act by Sheila Callaghan. Directed by Kip Fagan.

Creative: Set, Narelle Sissons; costumes, Jessica Pabst; lighting, Matt Frey; sound, Eric Shim; hair and makeup, Erin Kennedy Lunsford; production stage manager, Katrina Renee Herrmann. Opened Feb. 23, 2009. Reviewed Feb. 20. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.

Cast: Agnes - Lisa Joyce Valerie - Danielle Slavick Owen - Greg Keller Rodney - Joseph Gomez Jane Fonda - Annie McNamara

More Legit

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway's 'Tootsie' Was Adapted for Our Times

    Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, [...]

  • Death of a Salesman review

    London Theater Review: 'Death of a Salesman'

    August Wilson famously disavowed the idea of an all-black “Death of a Salesman.” In 1996, he declared any such staging “an assault on our presence and our difficult but honorable history in America.” Arthur Miller’s antihero is no everyman, Wilson implied; Willy Loman is very specifically white. Critic John Lahr was inclined to agree: “To [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content