Gracie Taylor, Cinthia Murguia, Ashley Anderson, Allison Collins, Sharon Becher, Hannah Wold (in back), & Danielle Warren from the cast of Reservoir Bitches. Photo by Holly Wolak.
By Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Lauren Argo
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
The idea of casting women in Reservoir Dogs begs the question of why. The characters in the original are determinedly nasty, misogynistic men who are prone to violence. Wouldn’t women behave differently, be cleverer in their criminal enterprise? Doesn’t the propensity for war and aggression arise from a deeply patriarchal social structure? Isn’t the simple substitution of women into men’s roles a regressive and outdated form of feminism?
These are all good questions, but they are largely swept aside by the energy and solid work present onstage in this production. Having seen the male version just over a week ago, to compare the two is inevitable, and this version played with a little more snap and zing in the dialogue. To be fair, I saw opening night of Reservoir Dogs, and I caught Reservoir Bitches after two performances with an audience, which can make a huge difference, but the women seemed to improve on the men in almost every way.
The famous opening scene that posits an explicit theory about Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” would seem to be problematic, but Gracie Taylor manages the dialogue expertly and it works. There are many similarities in the two productions, but it is the handful of different choices that stand out: the complete removal of the “N” word (very welcome) and the addition of the “C” word, which is provocative but representative of neutralizing offensive, emotionally charged epithets by those they target.
The general quality of performance is pitched with just the right level of emotion, so that the stakes are clearly delineated. Hannah Wold is a strong and assertive White, Allison Collins does well with Orange, consigned for much of the play to lying in a pool of blood but in authority during her extended scene with Cinthia Murguia, and Holly Wolak brings a “Sopranos” edge to her Nice Girl Edie.
Danielle Warren is so harrowing as the victim in the notorious torture scene that it was especially difficult to watch. It was a raw, unfettered turn. Ashley Anderson brought more playfulness to her tormentor, Blonde, than is usual, and risks undermining the casual sadistic cruelty that makes the character so chilling, but, again, I think she makes it work. That playfulness brought a brighter, more dangerous sarcasm to her earlier exchange with White: “Are you just going to bark, little doggie, or are you going to bite?”
Best of all was Gracie Taylor, who continues to prove that she is one of the more interesting young actors to come to the Louisville theatre scene. Sharp as a tack and fueled by inner fire, she makes Pink the fulcrum around which the action turns.
The men and the women take slightly different approaches to the material; the men more understated and restrained, the women more open emotionally. If the women come off better, it may be due to the novelty of deconstructing the material through a feminist lens. When the boss, Josephine (Sharon Becher) finishes her briefing on the jewelry heist, she pulls black ties out and exclaims, “Come on bitches, let me show you how to blend in in a man’s world!” It is a small moment but it helps give crucial context to this nasty and violent scenario being cast as a tale of female empowerment. Reservoir Bitches doesn’t merely swap genders, but is acutely aware of the opportunity to impact our understanding of the roles we all play.
Reservoir Bitches in rotation with Reservoir Dogs
March 9 – April 1 2017
Go to thealleytheater.org for exact schedule for each production and tickets.
Tickets $20 ($18 for students / seniors / military)
The Alley Theater
615 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.