The New York premiere of Kristiana Rae Colón’s new play Good Friday could not have come at a more imperative time in our culture. In an age when baby boomers’ once-earnest activism (the women’s movement of the 1970s) has been replaced by millennials’ equally well-meaning, but less effective “slacktivism” (#MeToo, #YesAllWomen), what does it mean in this day and age to call oneself a feminist? And what happens when women are forced to confront their belief systems, however different, just as a crisis occurs?
In Good Friday, those are questions a group of female students find themselves literally faced with one fateful day in their college classroom. The play opens as the four women—Ariel (Dolores Avery); Kinzie (Caturah Brown); Crete (Ure Egbuho); and Sophia (Raiane Cantisano)—parse their way through a feminist reading of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Moderating throughout is their professor Asha (Erin Noll), patient and encouraging. The discussion quickly centers around the idea women as objects, with Sophie’s innocent, religious slant on male-female relations clashing with Kinzie’s more principled perspective. The girls are passionate, talking over one another and arguing their points as if their lives depended on it. “My words are violent,” Ariel says, “but if they piss you off, you can hit me.”
The heated debate is soon interrupted, however, when gunshots are heard from outside their door. Smooth-talking bravado is silenced and altogether nonexistent once they are face to face with the masked shooter, who arrives at the room with another seeming victim—a student named Natalie (Pearl Shin).
The gunman, who turns out to be a gunwoman named Emme (Clea DeCrane), threatens to wreak even more havoc if Kinzie doesn’t record herself reading from a prewritten script and adhere to Emme’s cause. Kinzie falters, immediately prompting the others to join in. As they do, the words from the script, which describes Emme’s rape by the rugby team, are soon projected across the walls, their voices merging with those of other victims. It is both haunting and heartbreaking.
Much of the play’s power can be attributed to similarly affecting moments, both big and small (an early scene when one girl suddenly gets her period and the others rush to help alleviate her embarrassment is surprisingly endearing)—amplified further by its energetic cast, members all of the Flea Theater’s resident acting company, the Bats. Under the direction of Sherri Eden Barber, their performances are perfectly measured, particularly that of DeCrane’s Emme, whose gut-wrenching revelation is enough to render equally stunned silence from those both onstage and off. Equally powerful are Jess Medenbach’s multimedia projections onto the concrete walls of Kate Noll’s classroom set, displaying a society ultimately beholden to viral campaign hashtags and contradictory, impossibly high expectations of women.
What makes Good Friday most impactful is the way it does not claim to have all the answers but instead provokes even more questions than what one started with. Through the events that unfold, Colón explores the destructive ways in which women inflict violence upon one other, and how it can sometimes be the most traumatic. It is only when women stop to listen to and help one another that the narrative truly flip—and, hopefully, change the course of society.
All it takes is one deep, collective breath.
Good Friday runs through March 18 at the Flea Theater (20 Thomas St. in Tribeca, between Church and Broadway, three blocks north of Chambers). Evening performances are at 7 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; matinees are at 3 p.m. on Sundays. For information and tickets, visit theflea.org.