Fucking A – Fucking Flawless

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A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

Watching Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A, currently playing at Iron Crow, (or, for that matter, the news, fake or otherwise) begs the question- what does it mean to say something or someone is “good” or “bad”?  In a modern society grappling with alternative facts, biased media, and social media false fires, the answer to that question can be very difficult. The world created in this production is at once foreign and uniquely familiar.  Things are not always what they seem, but damned if they aren’t intriguing.

The text is, of course, a thematic retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous English-class tome, The Scarlet Letter though the stalwart Hester (Jessica Bennett) is, here, an abortionist, rather than an adulterer.  The first few scenes of A are hard to understand.  Some of the characters speak “the talk”, an invented language “interpreted” by five judges, who sit up on high and talk over the words, translating them to English.  The judges are difficult to see, and thus, the disembodied voices purposely disorienting.  Hester lives in the back woods of a standard-issue deep southern town (though one character exclaims “they are in the middle of nowhere,” Logan Lynch’s set design of simple wood, and the infusion of banjos played by Kevin Krause, David Engwall, and Josh Eid-Reis vividly mark the American south).  Hester is marked with a scarlet letter that comes with the job description.  Although she is skilled, discreet and thorough, she’s shunned by society even as it acknowledges her services as necessary, especially for the rich.  Hester’s son, Boy Smith, was taken from her years ago, thrown in jail for stealing meat, and she saves, scrapes, and scrounges every penny to put toward the freedom fund so they can be reunited.  The plot twists and turns with a cloudy heart, shaded with the abolishment of reproductive rights, extermination of women’s voices, extreme class warfare, treatment of female bodies as owned chattel, and dystopian mother-love revenge.  It’s fucking dark, and bold, as shit.

Director Stephen Nunns presents an intricate story well, but it is Bennett who commands the stage and makes Fucking A fucking fly.  You can viscerally feel her grief, her despair.  In some of the most painful, heart-wrenching moments, A almost plays as a one-woman show.  Absolutely exceptional, is what it is.  Deirdre McAllister stands out among the colorful supporting cast as a sex worker named Canary Mary.  In McAllister’s hands, Mary is incredibly well-executed, and her singing and washboard playing are the shit.  Jamil Johnson and Cricket Arrison turn in nice work as the Mayor and First Lady, caught in the cycle of fertility issues after she fails to give him an heir, much to his disappointment.  His song about the “little army” is a fun double entendre, referring to soldiers both big and little.  Caitlin Weaver, Martha Robichuad and Kelly Hutchinson are strong, crass and crude as ridiculously racist bounty hunters who make average hillbillies look golden. Kaya Vísìon transforms several times, whole-heartedly and seamlessly.  Shout out for making me squirm, laugh and love every moment.  Javier Ogando strikes all the creepy notes as a Monster both hunted and hunting for his life that was ripped away from him so many years ago.  As Hester says, “It’s hard to be good when you are surrounded by so much bad.”  Indeed.

BOTTOM LINE:  This is some heavy shit, Iron Crow does not don’t turn away from it, thank God.  Evocative, intensely performed and strongly directed, Fucking A stays with you, especially in a time like this.  Incredibly well done.  See it.

Running at Iron Crow Theatre until February 12th

SECOND OPINION?

http://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2017/02/gritty-fucking-at-iron-crow.html

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

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