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A CurtainUp Review
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
By Charles Wright
This brief, episodic theater-piece, first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014, is hard to categorize. It begins with a man (Daniel Abeles) and a woman (Molly Bernard) on a bare stage exchanging erotic fantasies. They've spent frustrating hours at a dinner party, aching to get away together. Now they're describing (sometimes fervently, sometimes with detachment) what they'd like to do to each other and have done to themselves. In short order, the two are entangled in miscommunication, bickering over meaning and struggling for control.
That first scene, titled "Revolutionize the Language. (Invert It)," is a relatively gentle introduction to an all-out brawl of a play. Like the rest of Revolt, it's funny, a bit mysterious, and filled with verbal surprises. Subsequent episodes involve a variety of non-recurring characters, most of them unnamed, who struggle to make themselves understood by interlocutors with whom they converse at accelerating cross-purposes.
Revolt (which received the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2014) concerns a variety of issues of gender and sexual politics — the balance of power between the sexes, the status of women in a supposedly post-feminist society, and all manner of things that get in the way of felicitous carnality. Not yet 30 years old, Birch is a formidable figure among emerging dramatists in the United Kingdom. Hers is a distinctive theatrical voice, blunt but humorous. At times, her colorful dialogue calls to mind some of the work of Caryl Churchill, but nothing in Revolt is derivative.
As performed by four engaging actors (Eboni Booth, and Jennifer Ikeda, as well as Abeles and Bernard) at Soho Rep, Revolt is a roller-coaster 65-minutes of theater. Blain-Cruz, who recently directed Lucas Hnath's Red Speedo at New York Theater Workshop, keeps the actors moving at a compelling pace; and, under her guidance, they operate like a well-calibrated Rube Goldberg contraption. The performance culminates in a crescendo of startling phrases and agitated movement and a tsunami of props and furnishings that fly around the stage.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again marks Birch as a writer worth following. It's good news that she's currently working on plays commissioned by London's Royal Court and the National Theatre.