When Gil Scott-Heron wrote ‘‘The revolution will not be televised,’’ he didn’t know what he was talking about. In case he hasn’t noticed, today’s TV is a metaphor for the real-world stage, its 24/7 news cycles heralding the demise of civilization as we understand it.
The Gershwins’ innocent ‘‘nee-ther/ny-ther’’ debate has come full circle as humanity prepares to call the whole thing off, the unheeded lessons of history touching those charged with being female in the 21st century.
Comes now British playwright Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., Innermission Productions’ combustible play about women’s relationships with a world that, to its peril, simply can’t stop reinventing itself. The modern female is the unhappy recipient of the spoils, dealing as best she can with a wholly inadequate social framework that weaponizes language and, too often, turns her against herself. Director Kym Pappas has built a stylized, highly efficient ensemble culture around Birch’s harangues — what appears to be an ultimatum is just as often an admission of guilt and a cry for help.
A series of scenes illustrates the contexts in which women play the hands they’re dealt — the workplace, sex and motherhood are center stage along with the superscripts that exhort the outcome (‘‘Revolutionize the Body — Stop Eating,’’ ‘‘Revolutionize the Language — Invert it’’). The first installment features a man and a woman (Salvador Velasco, Charly Montgomery) just in from dinner, wherein the guy acknowledges his plans to make love to her — and while that’s jake with her, she corrects him by insisting that ‘‘make love with’’ is the appropriate phrase. So much for his intentions.
Another sequence involves a confrontation between a daughter (Montgomery) whose mom (Kathi Copeland) walked out on her family years ago. The daughter’s little girl (Claudette Santiago) is now losing the battle with her own unhappiness, yet grandma insists she’s blameless in the development.
Then there’s the one about the woman (Kirstiana Rosas) who’s decided to plop herself down in aisle 7 at the supermarket and hike up her clothes. The disbelieving manager (Copeland) persists, wondering what fueled such behavior — the response is one of defeat amid the woman’s sad awareness of her physicality.
While some characters take on lighter bearings than others, none of the installments holds out hope for an equitable solution. Birch takes no prisoners, as illustrated in the final cacophonous sketch, which features several divergent images of femininity. Voices are absolutely everywhere, fueled by the despair of everyone’s indolence, including that of the women. ‘‘It turns out,’’ one character laments, ‘‘we stopped watching and checking and nurturing the thought to become the action.’’
‘‘Galvanize,’’ shouts the final superscript as the dispirited cast looks on. Indeed, and after all, brevity is the soul of wit.
Everyone in the five-female, one-male cast performs perfectly well, collaborating fully with Pappas’ lean vision of the show and with Birch’s incessant plea for consensus. The play’s Brechtian flavor extends to Ashley Rauras and Robert Malave’s set, its single table flanked by a few chairs and the word ‘‘Revolt.’’ stenciled in a few strategic spots. Carla Nell’s sound and Eric Ward’s lights add decorative flavors without assuming lives of their own.
In several of the sequences, you’ll note the presence of a red string, which a program note says is part of a figurative tapestry ‘‘whose threads were given to us when we were born but which we knit ourselves.’’ Birch and Pappas seem to say we have a revolution ahead in working to perfect that tapestry — and Revolt. signals that regardless of gender, the outcome may be in doubt.
This review is based on the preview performance of Sept. 14. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. runs through Sept. 29 at Diversionary Black Box Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights. $15-$25. innermissionproductions.org, 619-324-8970.