Capital Fringe Review: ‘Gorgeous Raptors’ by Jessica Vaughan

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The Disreputables is a theater company dedicated, as they say, to “giving voice to those people deemed unfit by society.” Lee Mikeska Gardner directs this production about a few teenagers on the, well, fringe of society. The actors are all spot on in their roles, particularly Kathleen Alvania as Kaballah.If I had not read the program telling me they are all accomplished thespians, I would have believed they were just a group of teenagers talking about their lives.

The scenes between Kaballah and Elise (Tiffany Garfinkle) are particularly poignant as they learn to trust each other and Kaballah shows Elise how to become a raptor – a creature capable of defending itself. Created, we are shown, to defend her from the memories of being raped. They dance around the stage cawing with complete conviction. They are beautiful. The boy who witnesses and falls for them, Justin (Yoni Gray) is also great as the decent kid who is not expecting claws when he approaches a girl he likes. It’s not all serious. The Christmas Pageant where the Jewish Kaballah is forced to play an angel is hilarious, and the tabouleh and ice cream dinner scene is delightfully awkward. All the actors have amazing timing. There is not a missed beat the entire play.

The narration is awkward, however. As it says in the brochure and in his opening monologue, it is the story of Justin’s impotence and losing his virginity, but it isn’t. It’s the story of a girl becoming a raptor and longing to be a girl again even as she loves that power, as seen through his eyes and his narration. Perhaps it makes her story easier to hear if you have never been a teenage girl, but I found it distracting from the stronger story of these budding relationships and the peculiar invulnerability and know-it-all attitude mixed with the frustration and resignation of a teenager of either gender. In a story about gorgeous raptors, they didn’t need the boy to translate. The subject matter is not easy and not for children, but it is about teenagers and they will recognize their lives in these characters.

I would see it just for the extremely powerful performances and for anyone who has ever been deemed unfit for society, for whatever reason.

50% of the profits go to the DC Rape Crisis Center.

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For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, click here.

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