Every Angel Is Brutal OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  • NY TIMES

  • Opening Night:
    May 27, 2016
    Closing:
    June 6, 2016

    Theater: The Wild Project / 195 East 3rd Street, New York, New York, 10009

    Synopsis: 

    Clubbed Thumb presents a dark comedic thriller about a trio of former college students/undercover government agents who discover their missions weren't quite what they seemed.

    Three American college girls are recruited to serve their country undercover in Berlin. Years later, they learn something really bad about what they did, and they reunite to take thirtysomething revenge on the man who exploited them.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Every Angel Is Brutal

    ‘Every Angel Is Brutal’ Adds Kitsch to a ’70s Show

    Ben Brantley

    June 1, 2016: Though they were trained killers and deceivers by profession, the title characters of the 1970s series “Charlie’s Angels” still came across as the kind of California girls that the Beach Boys wished every woman could be. They were sunny and smiley, and when they ran after bad guys in their skimpy work gear, they jiggled. Thus they remained when they were reclaimed, with an arched eyebrow, for the 21st century in a film with Drew Barrymore and company, as well as in a quickly forgotten television remake, though the emphasis was by then on the “sisterhood is powerful” aspect of their teamwork. Sort of. Now their DNA has been recoded by the experimental playwright Julia Jarcho, and there isn’t even the tiniest mote of sunshine in their makeup. As for that idea that these are the kinds of gals who will always have one another’s backs? Forget it, babe. The title of Ms. Jarcho’s dark and languid spy story, which opens this year’s Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks Festival at the Wild Project, says it all: “Every Angel Is Brutal.” A 2013 Obie winner for her “Grimly Handsome,” Ms. Jarcho specializes in letting the air out of traditional pop genres and then poking at their deflated remains. (Not for nothing was her 2011 play about a girl’s Hollywood-fictions-inspired fantasy life called “Dreamless Land.”) With “Every Angel Is Brutal,” directed by Knud Adams, she strips the bouncy, babealicious caper movie down to its lonesome skeleton. Although this production uses many of the tools associated with theater spoofs of classic kitsch — the kind that usually star female impersonators of all sexes — its aim is less to send up than to crash land. A protégée of Richard Maxwell, the king of downtown disaffection, Ms. Jarcho traffics in a style that might be called post-camp, in which silly (never mind innocent) pleasure is never part of the bargain. As in “Charlie’s Angels,” we begin here with a team of three bright and comely young things: Clair (Amelia Workman), Lucy (Jenny Seastone) and Jean (Jiehae Park). They are recruited by Jochen (Pete Simpson), a handsome man with a sinister accent, to pursue dangerous undercover missions in swinging Berlin. Our heroines have been led to believe that it’s the C.I.A. for whom they are seducing, kickboxing and assassinating so many men in so little time. But is Jochen really what he seems? For that matter, are they? Flash-forward to a decade later for the answers. The cast — which also includes Hubert Point-Du Jour in an assortment of male patsy roles and Susannah Perkins as a kid sister type — strikes a variety of action-flick poses to the accompaniment of pulsing music (Peter Mills Weiss is the sound designer) and lighting to match (by Bradley King). But even when the blood starts to flow, as you know it will (Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies are also a source of inspiration here), the suspense and shock levels stay low. Such listlessness is clearly part of this production’s master plan, and it’s extended into the performances, in which acts of violence, torture and betrayal are embodied with the same urgency that average people bring to opening the refrigerator when they’re not really hungry. And don’t look for enlivening touches of glamour in Marsha Ginsberg’s seedy set or Sydney Maresca’s closefitting costumes. That would to miss the point of this wanly diverting exercise, in which film noir dialogue is bleached to flat shades of gray. The effect brings to mind the experience of wandering into a cut-rate movie theater on a hot day, with a hangover, and walking in on the kind of low-budget suspense movie that usually goes straight to video. The grainy, abject ineptitude of what you see onscreen matches your burned-out mood. And if you have the energy to be philosophical, you’ll start to think about how sad and hopeless such genre flicks are beneath their mechanically energetic surfaces, and how friendless and joyless movieland spies are at heart. That, of course, was probably not the filmmaker’s intention. It is definitely Ms. Jarcho’s.

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