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Do you feel anger? on stage

Do you feel anger?

Playmasters sparks array of emotions in latest production

What are feelings? What is empathy? What do words mean? And who gets to decide? These are all questions pondered by characters in YVC Playmasters spring production of “Do You Feel Anger?”

“Each character we meet in this play confronts these questions to a greater or lesser extent and each character either resists introspection or allows themselves to be influenced,” says Alicia Bickley, drama instructor and director of YVC’s rendition of the play which ran May 9-18 in Kendall Hall.  

The dark comedy, written by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, follows Sofia, who is hired as an empathy coach at a debt collection agency — and quickly realizes that she has her work cut out for her. The employees can barely identify what an emotion is, much less practice deep, radical compassion for others. As they painstakingly stumble towards enlightenment, someone keeps mugging Eva in the kitchen, and the unspoken dynamics of their seemingly casual workplace culture become increasingly unsettling.

The play highlights themes like emotional manipulation, sexism, microaggression and male privilege that Bickley admits are uncomfortable for some and gave audience members much to consider.

“In our world, we normalize so many things that are really pretty disturbing when you look closely at them. Everyone is a part of this terrible, toxic culture; everyone ends up playing their own twisted role in it.” — Mara Nelson-Greenberg, playwright

“Sometimes I think the scary thing about being human in the 21st century is not the social or political rules that govern our existence, that influence who we interact with or why, but rather the fact that the rules appear to be in constant flux,” said Bickley. “What is considered benign can, seemingly overnight, morph into unacceptable. Words that might not have been regarded as controversial less than a decade ago are now regarded as ugly, even sinister.”

“The performance left audience members unsure how to feel, with atmosphere and reactions shifting throughout the performance,” said Heather Harrison, program assistant.

“The thing we’re aiming for is for it [the show] to be ‘funny, until it’s not’,” said Nelson-Greenberg in an interview TDF Stages Regina Robbins in 2019. “We’ve really been learning in this production how that tone shifts. People stop laughing at really different points in the play. Sometimes they laugh all the way through to the end, sometimes they never laugh at all.”

YVC’s cast included students Brooke Mason (Sofia), Greyson Malsam (Jon), Indie Fortier (Eva), Duke Walker (Jordan), Liam White (Howie opening weekend), Jack Swindell (old man) and Dalilah Nelson (Sofia’s mother and Janie) along with community members Matthew Marquez (Howie closing weekend) and Monica Althaus (Sofia’s mother and Donna). In addition, student Matt Blanchard coordinated the set design for the show and student Elizabeth Lopez served as the stage manager. YVC Drama Instructor Ray Pritchard and Photography Instructor Chris Otten also supported the show serving as technical director and providing artistic cast photography.  

Visit our website for more information YVC Playmasters and upcoming performance dates.

Story and photos by Stefanie Menard, AA-DTA ’05, communications consultant.