• Two women talking

      Tasha Ames and Paula Rebelo
      (Photo – Jeff Lorch)

      Circle X Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of “Do You Feel Anger?” at Atwater Village Theatre.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      It lived up to its hype as an “absurdly hilarious,” and sometimes brain-bogglingly crazy, sometimes insightful, sometimes cringeworthy, romp as a group of co-workers at a debt collection agency attempt to navigate the company’s project – learning empathy to help them hone their collection skills.

      The play was written by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, directed by Halena Kays, and produced by Jen Kays, Kat Haan and Timothy Wright. We are rollercoastered through the emotions, realizations, and cluelessness of the characters (mostly tone-deaf misogyny from the men and typical frustration and constant changes in direction navigating through their toxic workday from the women).

      Sofia (Paula Rebelo) is hired as an empathy coach at a debt collection agency and ​bro-in-charge Jon (Casey Smith – so perfectly cast, so believably wacky) must allow the training and get Sofia to sign off on the project with as little disruption as possible.

      Jon views the employees as a typical family, if you consider constant sexist conversations, inappropriate familial interaction and sexual assault, and communicating from imaginary beliefs with tone deaf reactions typical family interaction). Using recorded conversations of various employees as a teaching tool is a failure, as the employees see their collection methods as appropriate and aren’t quick to accept any suggestions.

      There’s an unsuccessful subplot going on via calls from Sofia’s mother (Rose Portillo), trying to connect with Sofia regarding family drama at home, and a final scene which did not really enhance the story, I wasn’t ready to get off the crazy train. Although both of those scenes were well acted and had their own message, they weren’t necessary.

      There are some extreme psychological quirks among the employees, a few realizations happen, but basically it’s what I would imagine having an acid flashback in a lockdown mental facility would be like – and I mean that as a compliment! The humor is so absurd it could have gone so wrong. But it worked because all the actors were just right for their roles, so much fun to just ride along with the craziness, picking up on some societal issues and insights along the way. Each employee has their own special “quirk.” Eva (Tasha Ames) is the least connected to reality, but is trying to survive with kindness and typical female tricks to “not send the wrong signal” to the men. Various other employees complete the wild and weird group of coworkers – Howie (Rich Liccardo), Janie (Charlotte Gulezian), Jordan (Napoleon Tavale), and a cameo appearance by a mysterious 130-year-old man (played by William Salyers the night I attended the production). It all works well together, even when everyone is on a different page. Just let it explode before you.

      Atwater Village Theatre
      3269 Casitas Avenue
      Los Angeles
      Continuing February 11 through 25
      Thurs., Fri., Sat. at 8:00 pm; Sun. 2:00 pm
      Free parking in the lot marked ATX or on the street (do not park at Momed).

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