At Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab in downtown DC, Ambassador Theatre continues its tradition of provocative, daring theatre with its US premiere of Canadian playwright Michele Riml’s hard-charging, intensely relevant two-actor script, RAGE.
Set in the drab, basement office of high school “Peace Counselor” Laura Whalen, RAGE revolves around the escalating encounter of the counselor with agitated, about-to-be-expelled high school senior Raymond Stitt. Played with tremendous dexterity and fluid theatricality, actors Ariana Almajan as Ms. Whalen and Marlow Vilchez as Raymond move across the stage like prize fighters defending their titles to the death: she, the champion of Pacifism and the gentler angels of our nature, and he, the champion of realism and the darker angels of our souls. Who among them will win this battle for heavyweight championship of the world?
The student Raymond, known as “Rage” by his only two friends, has grown increasingly marginalized within the high school’s social milieu. Yet, even his two lone friends deserted him when his disaffection with hypocrisy and myopia exploded in history class. And certainly the history teacher’s patience was exhausted by Raymond’s intense inquiry into Hitler’s political appeal, and Raymond now faces suspension. We learn of Raymond’s chilling impersonation of Hitler as if he were making an impassioned speech to the Nazi Youth Brigade, though Raymond insists his speech was merely theatrical provocation.
Peace Counselor Whalen has nonetheless persuaded the history teacher to let her talk to the young man, and persuade him to embrace a more pacifist perspective. Raymond appears in her office just as she was about to leave to seeÂ Le Mis with her live-in (but still non-committal) boyfriend. Raymond challenges her to stay, and she soon acquiesces to his insistence.
Over the course of the play’s 90 minutes (without intermission), the confrontation between the two of them advances and retreats and ultimately escalates to an urgency that has become achingly real in schools across the continent. Yet, rarely is the anguished reasoning of disaffected and marginalized youth presented as clearly and articulately as it is in RAGE, and keen applause to playwright Riml on her incisive script.
Under Director Joe Banno’s able direction, Ariana Almajan and Marlow Vilchez excel at the verbal & eventually physical dual between them. As the 38-year-old, engaged-but-not-married peace educator Laura Whalen, Almajan brings a persuasive single-mindedness the role. Indeed, her character’s very identity, as well as her livelihood, depend on her unflinching embrace of peace and the promise of pacifism to quiet the heady waters of our times. She is at once calm, compassionate, insistent, and explosive. Marlow Vilchez’s portrayal of the young man Raymond embodies the accumulated outrage of the outcast. Vilchez fills the character of Raymond with brooding intelligence and grim conclusions disallowed by officialdom. Disillusioned and angry beyond what his young consciousness can bear, Vilchez brings Raymond’s pain full throttle onstage.
Set & Lighting Designer Jonathan Rushbrook has created an appropriately dreary, low-light basement space, and Sound DesignerÂ George Gordon gives us a precise and convincing soundscape. Costume Designer Sigridur Johannesdottir has clad the actors in contemporary attire that clearly evokes each the character’s personalities. Special applause to Stage Fight Choreographer Cliff Williams for the deft and effective physical confrontations.
A grueling, unwavering gaze at the limitations of ideology and the tragedy of marginalization, RAGE brings us to the brink.
Photo by Vak Radev.
Through November 16, 2014, at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St, NW
Tickets & informationÂ http://www.instantseats.com/index.cfm?r=D76A&fuseaction=home.venue&venueID=280
Advisories: Physical violence and strong language and content.
Appropriate for ages 15 and above.