Monday, May 6, 2024

The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer: "Aftershocks" at Theater for the New City

This show’s description caught my eye right away. When I walked in, the set design told you exactly where we were and what show to expect. It’s not something for the kiddies so this is definitely not kid friendly. In fact, I’d say leave your teens at home as well unless you are a very modern and progressive parent who’s totally cool discussing dark subjects in the sexual realm with your kids or you take your kids to strip clubs. From my estimation, that’s not many of you. You have officially been warned.
Photo by Matthew Schechtman

Now, that being said this show managed to integrate the pace and sentiment of “Friends” with some very dark subject matter that most of us would say “how can you possibly make THAT funny?” Somehow, Rori Nogee does it and doesn’t leave you feeling guilty for laughing while also giving you a powerful illustration of trauma from childhood sexual assault.

She also manages to make her protagonist, Kat/Angie (Rori Nogee) sympathetic despite Kat’s being an unrepentant stripper who confidently asserts that she’s not having a committed relationship with anyone. Just ask Ben (Andrew Ricci), the computer tech guy she’s stumbled into a FWB relationship with who’d really like to get more serious and make an honest woman out of her.

Credit should also go to the direction of Lissa Moira as the characters flow easily in this world and you can believe in the connection Kat finds with Elliott (Cameron Cave), a super nervous newcomer to the back room who’s only there on the guidance of his therapist. He’s content to just talking to Kat and gets her to violate the basic stripper rule against taking off the performer mask and mentioning her real name (which is Angie). A sweetness develops between these two and it feels like Angie loses her hardness and cynicism built up as the result of her own sexual trauma. It felt a bit reminiscent of “Leaving Las Vegas” and some of the darkness has parallels to it but this show actually goes further.

I’m totally on board with Kat’s philosophy on sex when she notes it’s importance to life and living though my own statement on it is a bit different and I’m more private about such things. Despite the fact that Elliott is a guy who can not do such things due to childhood sexual trauma that he’s trying to work out, he and Kat/Angie develop a fondness that later turns into an exclusive relationship. He’s aware that she’s got her needs but she makes a grand effort to try and be respectful of his limits and boundaries though does push at times with mixed results. The relationship definitely goes through its ups and downs and when temptation enters in the form of Kyle (Jon McHatton), the very definition of a bad guy not suited for anyone who doesn’t want to be a side chick whom Angie previously had an involvement with, things do not turn out well for Angie.

The dynamic between Angie and Elliott actually reminded me a bit of this guy I shall call the Model Flake. He knows who he is. His problem, however, is social trauma and becoming more agoraphobic as well as reluctant to leave home (which isn’t that close to me) despite being a former model who had connections and backing I’ve never had in that space. He also has separate issues that are a massive paradox to my own world and my own boundaries yet for some reason I still care about the guy in spite of myself. Damn heart!!

My underlying thought is “if he got his mess together and found his passion in life, he’d be a really great guy.” This guy has been in and out of my life over the course of years.

I remember him saying he was intimidated by me, the girl who was called ugly throughout her childhood and couldn’t buy a date with guys she liked in her hometown. I still find that hysterical since if I saw him at random someplace and didn’t know him, I’d never approach him since I’d fear rejection. The conceited hot guy who cheats on women is a trope and while the Model Flake apparently views his not being that way as a defect, I find it refreshing and endearing.

Like Angie with Elliott, I’ve tried to have some patience and latitude with this guy but definitely have my limits as well.

Eventually, Elliott leaves the scene and in the meantime both he and Angie find love elsewhere with Angie getting engaged to Ben. However, when the two meet again for Angie’s birthday outing as he’s accompanied by his new girlfriend Bethany (Zoe Laiz) the train wreck you expected very much happens and then gets darker as you’re thinking a conflict is resolved and things are look bright for Elliott and Angie.

The final question in my mind as I saw the end of the show was “How do you kill the demon?” I haven’t lived childhood sexual trauma so I have no clue how one would do it but apparently a demon does exist when you lived it. The psych major in me and I’m sure countless others who’ve had that experience would probably like to know the answer to that question. Does anyone have an answer to that one?

The comedy in this show reminded me a lot of “Love Quirks” a show I reviewed in August 2022 thanks to a connection with the show’s composer. Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Nogee was apparently in that show (though not the performance I saw) as well as a show that may have been the last one I saw with my long since ex-husband called “Showgirls! The Musical” which was a hilarious parody of the movie “Showgirls”. If you didn’t see it, you missed out—my ex and I shared an interest in media that pushed back against US puritanical norms.
Photo by Matthew Schechtman

Despite the very dark ending and our main characters not doing right by Ben or Bethany, the show was actually very good since the characters had heart, honesty, sincerity, accessibility and depth and the story had the universal appeal that I look for that made me care. I’d definitely recommend it for the adults, even the ones who hate everything strippers and strip clubs stand for though my conservative mother would probably be a tough sell.

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