Susan McNeese Lynch & Matthew Dalton Lynch.
Mrs. Cage. She’s All The Rage!
By Nancy Barr
Directed by Scout Larkin
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
When is a play not a play? Is a filmed play still a play? Is a play presented to a camera crew with no audience still a play? Right now, these questions preoccupy local practitioners of live theatre. Do I need to explain why?
An even bigger question that troubles us at this moment is death from gun violence. Mrs. Cage, She’s All The Rage is not concerned with the hot button issue of police shootings that have fueled civil unrest and social protests all around the U.S. but it does examine how a “normal” person might pick up a gun in a moment of pain and outrage. The violence here is white on white and expresses the angst and repression of a contained life.
Several days ago I watched this live performance of Mrs. Cage. I sat further back in the theatre, behind a 3-camera setup that was recording the performance for live streaming beginning November 12.
It was pretty close to a straight run-through, with the actions stopping only a few times, but I was also watching Herschel Zhand monitoring cameras and sound recording, lending my experience with the material a bit of a play-within-a-play dynamic. Now tonight I have watched the final cut, which gave me an advantage.
Lillian Cage (Susan McNeese Lynch) is a privileged white woman whose statement to police Lieutenant Angel (Matthew Dalton Lynch) is deeply confessional. Mrs. Cage needs to talk, She MUST talk, and the statement about her actions is just the catalyst for her release. She talks about her husband Martin, who seems unfeeling in her account, and her daughter Elizabeth, who is herself looking to end an unsuccessful marriage. Playwright Nancy Barr uses names very pointedly, made obvious when Angel gently refers to Mrs. Cage as “Lillian…Lily”, a flower in a cage, and the woman she shoots after a tragic altercation in a parking lot is named Phyliss Dean, repeated often enough that you hear “philistine”. It’s not subtle but it works.
The relationship between the two in the interview is enigmatic Lt. Angel often seems to play the role of other people in Mrs.Cage’s life in ways that suggestively erase professional boundaries. It’s another way that Barr expands the story beyond the mundane details of a police procedural and taps into larger cultural observations and fundamental human experience. We are forced to consider that Lillian Cage’s violence might on some level be righteous, exacting a measure of justice for injustice leveled by the privileged against the lower class. However disproportionate the reaction, Mrs. Cage is convinced that she has done right.
It’s a heady theme for a one-act comedy, for, as a character, Mrs. Cage is very funny, and Ms. Lynch captures the ingenuous nature of the woman (she says “fibbing” instead of “lying”) right through the moment that she passionately describes her crime. And Dalton Lynch’s Lt. Angel, with his smart suit and pony-tail, is far from the usual flatfoot policeman. He seems less interested in the crime scene than he does this woman’s soul.
Working within the same limitations faced by other theatre companies, this is a sound choice for Eve Theatre Company, a two-character one-act focusing on the travails of modern women. With the mother-son casting, there is less concern about COVID exposure, and the crew exercised all proper caution. Given the opportunity to contrast in-person with digital recording, I can observe that the camera provides immediacy in the close-ups and the editing maintains the rhythm and pace. But, of course, we lose the spontaneous energy and collective experience of being in the same room. There is no substitute.
Mrs. Cage. She’s All The Rage!
Available through video streaming through www.showtix4u.com/event-details/41297 on November 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 22.
Tickets are $20 and the play is available for viewing for 48 hours
Eve Theatre Company &
Fledgling Theatre Company
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.