“Do you feel angry?” at Theater Alliance feels more like disappointment

That the title of this piece is a question seems quite appropriate once the show begins to unfold. It’s not a straight, narrative story, but an episodic rendition of scenes where one question begets another – about the idea of ​​empathy in a debt collection agency. Sofia (Maria Simpkins), a professional trainer, is hired to investigate and declares, “I’m going to turn this office into an empathy machine!”

Maria Simpkins as Sofia, Shaq Stewart as Howie, Nicklas Aliff as Jordan in “Do You Feel Anger?” Photo by Manaf Azzam.

Her first contact with company employees is Eva (Marissa Liotta), the only woman in the office whose position is unclear. She is lovable but displays a kind of manic energy and comes across as nervous and wary. She shares that she is in a hostile environment and tells stories about non-existent friends to ward off advances from her male colleagues. Eva’s free-floating monologue gave me an inkling of the theater of the absurd.

Shaq Stewart as Howie, Nicklas Aliff as Jordan, Maria Simpkins as Sofia and Marissa Liotta as Eva in Do You Feel Anger? Photo by Manaf Azzam.

do you feel anger by Mara Nelson-Greenberg is billed as a comedy, although it expresses dark elements of misogyny, misunderstanding and deception as obvious themes. Jon (James Whalen), the scruffy and dastardly boss, is open about his sexual desires and tells Sofia he prefers her to wear a dress over pants.

The characters constantly talk about how the world works – be it their own world or the one in the office. The point is, it’s a world with man-made rules. Jon admits to Sofia: “I really want to show that I’m a good guy.”

What is empathy? What is sexual equality? How can you have empathy when you don’t even know about his or her own feelings? These employees can barely discern what an emotion is, let alone show deep, genuine compassion for others (especially women).

It’s not just about men’s abusive appropriation of fairness; It’s also about how women can be complicit in their own degradation. For example, Sofia finds herself playfully adapting to the lewd and lascivious behavior of men in order to achieve her goals in this so-called gender parity training. How scary respectful.

Maria Simpkins as Sofia, Shaq Stewart as Howie, Nicklas Aliff as Jordan and James Whalen as Jon in ‘Do You Feel Anger?’ Photo by Manaf Azzam.

The action takes place in a conference room, apart from some inexplicable fantasy scenes at the end, and contributes to an uncomfortably cramped feeling. I cannot say that questions raised were specifically addressed and certainly no questions were answered.

From reading Kelly Colburn’s director’s note on the show, I understand that the playwright aimed to convey the vulnerability of men and women to one another in terms of their interaction and understanding, but she also sees inconsistencies in the actual relationship between men and women each other, although she admits that men overwhelmingly have the upper hand in controlling their interactions and perceptions. Since that might be the case, I don’t think the intent got through.

do you feel anger playing through June 11, 2022 presented by Theater Alliance and performing at Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, Washington, DC. Buy tickets ($40; $30 students, seniors, military) on-line.

The program for do you feel anger is online here.

COVID Safety: The Anacostia Playhouse, where Theater Alliance performs, requires proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 48 hours prior to performance. Masks are compulsory for spectators, except when eating or drinking. For more informations, Click here.

do you feel anger
By Mara Nelson-Greenberg
Directed by Kelly Colburn

Maria Simpsons: Sofia
Nicklas Aliff: Jordan
Melissa Carter: Mother/Janie/Old Man
Marissa LiottaEva
Shaq Stewart: Howie
James Whalen: Jon

Scenic Design: Emily Lotz
Lighting Design: Dylan Uremovich
Sound design: Toisin Olufolabi
Costume design: Kiana Vincenty
Projection Design: Deja Chavon Collins
Features Design: Amy Kellett
Technical direction: Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Stage manager: Genny Ceperley
Assistant Director: Lisa Danielle Buch
Assistant Stage Manager: Becca Anderson
Production Manager: Dominique Douglas Hendricks

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