Giselle and Anna Basile (Betty 5) Source: Courtesy of Burbage Theatre Company

Review: 'Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties' High in Enthusiasm, Low in Coherence

Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.

The best thing I can say about "Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties" is to credit the unbridled enthusiasm of the actresses.

The play follows the lives of five women, all named Betty, as they navigate the pitfalls of love, marriage, friendship, and the world of theater.

Daria-Lyric Montaquila ("BLKS") is the egocentric and brassy Betty 3, who is inspired to produce her own play after attending a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Betty 3's friendship with Betty 4 (Nina Giselle) becomes strained after the role of the Wall is given to Betty 5 (Anna Basile). Meanwhile, Betty 1 (Melissa Penick) seeks an escape from her unhappy marriage by forming a bond with "genderqueer" Betty 5, owner of a boxing gym. Betty 1 releases pent-up frustrations with her cheating husband by taking lessons.

Betty 2 (Amie Lytle) is also unhappily married, and engages in awkward chit-chat with Betty 1. She later shares her frustrations with a puppet and contemplates suicide. Betty 3 brags about being intimate with another woman. She is truly liberated, in contrast to the meek, repressed Betty 2. Betty 4 is masculine-looking and is preoccupied with repairing her truck.

Daria-Lyric Montaquila as Betty 3
Source: Courtesy of Burbage Theatre Company

The acting is strong across the board. Giselle and Montaquila have a fine comic rapport when they're discussing the peculiarities of paying good money to see a Shakespeare production. Penick is effective as a neurotic and deeply troubled woman. She subtly reveals Betty 1's growing affection for Betty 5 while working out her own insecurities.

Playwright Jen Silverman ("Witch") is fascinated by these women having the chance to explore the boundaries of their sexuality and sexual freedom, but the story is undermined by the lack of motivations shown by the characters and their unnatural reactions to events.

For example, Betty 4 develops a sudden interest in acting after attending one of the rehearsals for the play. Where does this come from? It's just an excuse to create conflict between herself and Betty 3. That subplot is resolved much too easily.

Betty 3 acts like a tyrant, ordering all the other Betties around like she's a queen on a throne. No one seems to object to her shrill demeanor. Betty 2 spends the entire time as a doormat for the other more assertive Betties before transforming herself into a lion (not literally). What's really bizarre is the Betties don't even seem the least bit interested by the personality change. There is also a silly scene with some of the Betties examining their private parts with mirrors. What this has to do with anything is a mystery to me.

Montaquila and Nina Giselle (Betty 4)
Source: Courtesy of Burbage Theatre Company

What's most disappointing is how "Collective Rage" squanders the dramatic possibilities for these characters. Silverman's idea of female empowerment is to have women dress up (and act) like straight men. Boxing, fixing truck engines, boasting about sexual conquests, even mocking gay men who act on stage.

Allison Crews' direction is stylish and the pacing is sharp. Trevor Elliott's set design features some neat touches, especially the placement of the truck exteriors. However, there are no insights provided here, just clichés and tiresome references to female body parts. The crassness on display gives audiences a reason to heave a collective groan.

"Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties" runs through April 21. Burbage Theatre Company. 59 Blackstone Avenue, Pawtucket, RI. For tickets, call 401-484-0355 or visit

by Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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