Michele Riml’s Rage made its US premiere this week at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab. A production of Ambassador Theater, directed by Joe Banno, Rage explores the dynamics of adolescent rage from a Canadian perspective.
The taut 90-minute drama pits a highly intelligent, disaffected high school senior against a pacifist 38-year-old student counselor. The results are engaging and provocative even if on occasion you might find yourself exhausted by the intensity of the exchange.
The violence of disassociation, estrangement, and disgust permeates the world. The violence of State agents also rages on around the globe, with the arms industry the only true winner. People who believe, as Gandhi did, that violence even when “it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent,” have little sway, particularly in the United States where military spending even in sequestration far outstrips military spending worldwide.
Rage’s two-person dialogue–one part human drama, one part sociological experiment–depicts the emotional and intellectual landscape produced when the power of violence confronts a commitment to peace.
Ariana Almajan plays Laura Whalen, a part-time high school counselor, whose office is seemingly buried in the school’s basement. A committed peace activist, she truly believes that discussion will solve not only the world’s problems but more specifically the problems confronting young people as they struggle with issues of power and love. Her low status at the school and in society, however, demonstrates just how ill-regarded this pacifist approach to solving issues has become.
Marlowe Vilchez plays Raymond Stitt, aka. Rage, an emotionally explosive high school senior unable to come to grips with the hypocrisies of the adult world, or with the absurdities of his domineering mother and overly passive father.
Rage’s day has not gone well. During an oral history report on the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, during which he stepped into the shoes of the fiery orator and railed against the Jewish people, he and his ranting scared classmates and teacher alike. Now, he’s threatened with expulsion.
Laura has intervened in hopes of saving his high school career. She meets with Rage at the end of the school day. She successfully gets him to open up about the purpose of his oral report as she tries to understand his behavior and motives. When Rage pulls a gun on her, however, the counseling ends and Rage’s thought-experiment begins. Where it might end is up to the players.
Both actors do a fantastic job navigating the emotional rollercoaster that is Rage. Ms. Almajan realistically captures the vulnerability and the fear of the situation, while Mr. Vilchez keeps his disgust with the world specific and credible. Director Joe Banno’s pacing of the show is well modulated, even as the script dips into repetition a little near the end.
The design team of Jonathan Rushbrook (sets), Sigríður Jóhannesdóttir (costumes), Cliff Williams III (fight director), and George Gordon (sound) has used the Flashpoint space to good effect as well as contemporary iconography, both musical and visual.
There’s little doubt that the concerns raised by Rage are on the minds of many Americans, even if individual gun ownership and “stand your ground” laws (not pacifism) are the doctrines most in vogue in the United States these days.
Rage can’t be beat for sheer intensity, and its issues are as pressing as tomorrow’s news.
Running Time: 90 minutes without an intermission.
School in Crisis in Michele Riml’s ‘Rage’ by Eliza Anna Falk.