By Sandi Durell
Woman power and its changes through the years define who and what is relevant . . . depending on where we stand individually and where our own truths and experiences lie. JC Lee’s exciting and highly intense intellectual drama at MCC Theater tackles race, class, and bias; and what can happen when you’re not up to snuff in the new age of social media.
“Dr. Hanneck: What you hear underneath it is hate. It’s pure, unadulterated hate. . . but nuance has a way of obscuring the truth.”
And so begins a conference that takes place inviting one of the top author/feminists to speak and receive a lifetime achievement award (the always astonishing force of nature, Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans, A Doll’s House, Part 2, as Dr. Theresa Hanneck), paired against a new, young writer Msemaji (the riveting, exquisite Pascale Armand, Eclipsed) who has catapulted herself into a position of new warrior for class and race warfare eagerly pointing out the gap in their generations. In her effort to speak freely in the opening short debate, hosted by Dr. Hanneck’s former student Kelly Taylor (Molly Camp, The Heiress), who uncomfortably attempts to assuage the heated discussion beginning to boil over when Dr. Hanneck is merciless on this newbie, interrupting and not allowing Msemaji to speak.
Msemaji takes to social media (where she is ranked a top up and coming cultural figure to watch by Buzzfeed) in order to right the wrong she believes she’s been dealt, and her camp of followers quickly make mincemeat of the veteran feminist, Dr. Hanneck, by taking the low road in chatter calling Dr. Hanneck a bitch and worse.
Hanneck receives little to no comfort from her longtime friend and agent (and former lover), David (the perfectly cast Richard Masur, The Changing Room).
When Theresa realizes that YouTube is the new Town Square, she must protect herself as Msemaji calls her work a clarion from the past. Hanneck, under attack, devises an intricate plan showing her muster and will go to any length to expose the lies that have propelled Msemaji to her current status as the young writer seeks fame and fortune, Theresa saying that relevance must be earned.
There’s a fabulous scene where David and Msemaji meet for a drink, giving opportunity for Masur to shine as he compares teams vs. individuals using sports as the example. It’s a funny and clever device as he pitches to represent Msemaji. No surprise!
All hell breaks loose as accusations fly in the final debate as Dr. Hanneck calls for more transparency, for truth as the best weapon against oppression and reveals the lies that Msemaji has told about her growing up years. But Msemaji has twitter on her side; their differences now have gone viral.
Does the final ending afford any solutions to right or wrong or the issues at stake? JC Lee weaves an intricate web that proves to provoke and ponder the big questions raised in this revealing and mesmerizing play.
Remarkable Director Liesl Tommy moves the four characters forward and keeps the audience riveted while Clint Ramos provides the creative revolving turntable set.
I will note that there is a good deal of repetition that would seem to warrant cuts in the script.
This is another must-see MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel running thru March 11th (let’s hope for an extension)
Photos by: Joan Marcus
Relevance – www.MCCTheater.org Lucille Lortel 121 Christopher Street, NY
Running Time: One hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)