- December 1, 2003




Anger Box

Written by Jeff Goode; Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques; Featuring Larry Jay Tish, Bill Doscher, Becca A. Lewis, Stephen Libby, Flavia Steiner Viggiani, Elizabeth Stuart, Danielle L. DiDio, Chiara Durazzini, Vladimir Aseneta, and Ann Carpenter

Performed by TheaterZone at the new Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, Massachusetts

1 December 2003

TheatreZone's performance of Jeff Goode's Anger Box promises to pounce on the truly big questions that vex mankind: Does an all-seeing, all-knowing God exist? Does he give a spit about us? Are we mortals doing His will, or just putting our words in His mouth? And if that's the case, why would we create such an asshole of a deity? Wouldn't Santa Claus be a kinder, gentler choice? Wouldn't Satan get better results?

And so, ten jaded characters give up on the search for faith in a chaotic world and hope instead for a little equity. Or maybe a chance to straighten out a few kinks in the mortal coil. At best they get some insight into the sources of their pain.

Each gets his or turn at center stage with a monologue about their personal misadventures with inequity, piety, betrayal, just desserts, or last meals. Each exudes a unique flavor of anger, spanning the spectrum from disillusionment to resentment to indignant fury to seething hatred. Some performances stand out from the others for their intensity.

In "Popophilia", actress Becca A. Lewis flounces about the stage in her communion dress as she explains her goal of getting pregnant by the Pope. She has everything planned, from her preparatory life of abstinence to the perfect time to reveal her child's paternity. All so she can hang the church with its own rope for the hatred it's spawned. Payback's a bitch, and so is this princess in white.

Stephen Libby nails the true spirit of Christmas as a very bitter elf in "None Believer". His litmus test for faith is irrefutable, and he delivers an example of a true believer's response with wonderfully vitriolic sanctimony.

Flavia Steiner Viggiani sizzles with palpable rage at how her spouse, neighbor, and religion have all betrayed her in "Godburger". Waves of anguish gush from her character and wash into the audience, and it would have been no surprise if the mixing bowl she thrashed had shattered like her nerves.

All the actors turn in performances that are better and more heartfelt than the script they're working from. Jeff Goode's writing is good, but not great, there are many weaknesses.

The monologue is in many ways a cop-out for the writer. Set and staging are unnecessary, and in some cases even lighting is optional, so there's no need to write the characters interacting with an environment. Since monologues are performed solo, there isn't any need to write characters interacting with each other. It gets even easier when the script is divided into ten shorter monologues. A full length story requires perhaps a couple of hours of dramatic exposition with conflict and character exploration leading to a climax and denouement. A five or ten minute monologue is like a music video in comparison-- neither writer nor audience needs much of an attention span. Even the order of presentation needn't be a hassle. Write the segments in whatever order they come to mind, then reorder them if you discover during rehearsal that they clunk.

In such a brief format, when the character strays, there isn't much footing for the writing to regain its step. Some of the segments rambled too far before regaining focus and arriving at a point. Joe Sixpack in the titular first segment "Anger Box" may hate the towel-heads just like the rest of the guys down at the union local hall, but he's a little too educated in global politics. The Pizza Guy in the penultimate segment "Prelude to Pizza" shows credible concern with his tip, but most minimum wage slaves don't show as much awareness of causality.

Despite some murky patches where the monologues lose traction, they all arrive at the same destination albeit via different routes. Indeed, the "big questions" are answered. Is there truly a God? There is if we create him. Why does God let us suffer? Because he's our creation, and He's as flawed as we are. Why would we create such an asshole of a God? Because we're afraid to go it alone.

These concept have been discussed and debated many times in media ranging from bumper stickers to Simpsons episodes to pop music (e.g., Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus as was used in the Anger Box soundtrack). Jeff Goode introduces the new idea that emotional transference is what powers the cycle of anger when imaginary saviors fail us and harm inevitably befalls us. Put your faith in the Guy Upstairs, He's big enough to protect us. And dump your anger on Him too when He's not big enough to protect us from ourselves or each other. Even the less spiritual can follow the plan. Why be angry with yourself for your poor choices in life when you can whack the gas station owner who clearly had it coming for succeeding where you failed? So long as the buck gets passed, the anger keeps going round and round, like a dog furiously chasing its own tail.

Matthew Christian