In the Salem College Pierettes’ production of “Collective Rage: A Tale in 5 Betties,” the club shows they are not afraid to get a little political and extremely absurd.
Centering itself around five different New York women all named Betty, each character reflects the deeply individual yet uniting struggles they face in loving themselves and others.
The ultimate charm to the production was the unabashed embracement of the absurdity, which was played up by the actors. With characters wearing vagina hats, talking about lion sex and saying “pussy” enough times to make anyone blush— this production is not for the faint of heart or anyone unwilling to suspend disbelief and simply experience the Betty’s ridiculousness and rage.
One moment that stood out comedically was the scene in which Betty 2, played by Pierettes’ president Cailey Neuschaefer, sat center stage, conversing with her hand clad in a ruddy sock puppet. The scene reflected on Betty 2’s deep loneliness and compartmentalization of her dark self-image. Despite the disturbing content, it ripped laughs because of Neuschaefer’s perfected switching between tones of innocence and cartoonish anger as she’s lectured by her overbearing sock puppet.
The minimalist set works for the abstract formatting of the play, with scenes where the two mechanic Bettys, played by Kristin Draper and M.K. Thompson, mimic working on their trucks by laying on rollers under black benches and twisting wrenches. The stifled conversation about rehab and eating pussy is even more ridiculous when the two characters occasionally sigh and crank their wrench randomly as they work on their trucks.
The Betty’s interlocking stories of love and acceptance of themselves come about in many forms, some around changing yourself to “make it” as an adult and find success beyond retail work, or grappling with leaving a cheating husband. An especially touching scene takes place between Betty 1 (Natalie Patterson) and Betty 5 (Thompson) in which they find solace within each other despite how different they are.
In the final scene, the curtain is pulled back to reveal a warmly lit stage, adorned with pillows and hanging lanterns, setting the literal stage for the characters’ production of, what they call “Summer’s Midnight Dream,” and a shift in tone from the seemingly endless strings of miscommunication to one of honesty between the characters.
While the play may not be for people uncomfortable with slinging descriptive words of genitalia or hilariously bastardized versions of Shakespeare; anyone will see themselves in a Betty or two and release some collective rage they didn’t know they were holding.