Produced by HowlRound Theatre Commons
Presented by Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston (AATAB)
By Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro
Directed by Mallika Chandaria
Stage Managed by Karin Naono
Originally streamed on Wednesday, July 15 at 7 PM EDT
AATAB on Facebook
Featuring: Roxanne Y. Morse, Kendra Jain, Lisa Yuen, Vijaya Sundaram, Emily Kuroda
Critique by Kitty Drexel
ZOOM/HowlRound — The characters in Incredibly Annoying Women by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro are unapologetic. These women take up space with their bodies and emotions like a cis man on the T at rush hour: legs sprawling to the left and right, arms resting on seat backs, backpack taking up a fourth seat. They aren’t inherently annoying but their unfounded entitlement is.
These emotional vampires manipulate us into listening to their diatribes because social rules say it’s rude to walk away. They suck of the life out of you with their presence and explain away their awkwardness with casual dismissals.
“I’m doing this for your own good,” they think. Their large personalities wriggle under your skin like a parasite. You feel trapped by their forceful natures. This play is not a trap.
We don’t know the characters of Incredibly Annoying Women personally but they remind us of people we do know: the old biddy next door, the activist overflowing with impotent rage, the neighborhood hoarder, the slighted community theatre actress, and the retired professional actress with nothing but time.
Alfaro gives us modern archetypes who personify the worst of human traits. They talk to us because they each have an important message to share. We have to listen to them in order to decide if we agree. It’s by listening to them, the giving of our attention, that we get hooked in and the manipulation begins. Whether we agree that their messages hold import is a matter of opinion.
AATAB’s production presented by HowlRound took well to live streaming. The camera hugged tightly to the actors; their faces were the focus. A tight perspective left little room for props, scenery or costume design.
Exceptions were made for scenes that required a visual cue such as the lovable, small green plant symbolizing innocence in Morse’s monologue. The handmade peace sign hung on an apartment door in Jain’s monologue signified location. Props were sparse because they weren’t needed.
The actors of AATAB’s production were so adept at storytelling that they didn’t need props. Alfaro’s text is conversational. Most conversations performed without additional props. So too the monologues in Incredibly Annoying Women. Actors should only need their voices and their bodies to convey character and situational details. Everything else is in Alfaro’s text.
The cast does a beautiful job with the script. They and Chandaria turned out strong performances that were captured for posterity on YouTube. Morse, Jain, Yuen, Sundaram, and Kuroda were sincere and believable. Yuen as a scorned community theatre actress was all too relatable. She personified the frustration performers so often experience in this profession.
Kuroda captured the glamour of an actress aging into obscurity. Kuroda was in great form as her character bemoaned her hearing loss, memory loss, and many regrets. The character was in decline but Kuroda was not. She was poised and witty.
Alfaro has written five monologues for five ostentatious women who demand our time with their presence. Actors looking for a new monologue should find a copy of the script. Each character has a complex, chewy monologue. In each, there are multiple opportunities for edits of one to three minute audition monologues. The script is available on New Play Exchange and worth a read.
This production isn’t a fun diversion for a day ending in y but it is worthy of study. Incredibly Annoying Women is an opportunity to showcase five actresses. AATAB chose to cast five women but the playwright only specifies race for one character on the site. It requires few props, costumes, or stage pieces so a good production could tour easily. Its content will spark conversions about psychology, racism, narcissism, adult responsibility and appropriate responses to stress. It runs 90 minutes.