Sofia (Tiffany Villarin) “once taught a broker without tear ducts how to cry out of his mouth.” Certainly this earnest corporate coach can soften the hearts of the bad boys at Cash Flow Accounts, right? Not likely considering that Jordan (Ugo Chukwu), Howie (Justin Long) and their boss, Jon (Greg Keller) think that empathy is a type of bird. Eva (Megan Hill) can’t seem to define it either–perhaps it’s because the men around her have subjugated her to nothing more than an object.
There’s a lot of food for thought in Mara Nelson-Greenberg‘s absurdist comedy Do You Feel Anger? which recently opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. Through dark humor, she reveals the dangers of unchecked anger. Her most potent illustration can be found through the character of the Old Man (Tom Aulino), who arrives at the noxious office space and announces that he’s going to blow it up. The 130-year-old man–who we learn is Eva’s boyfriend– recalls a childhood story of feeling “left out” Now, his emotions are so jumbled that he mistakes homemade bombs for tins of dog food.
Nelson-Greenberg often pushes the dialogue so far into overdrive that her well-intended points are lost. At times, it is awkward for the audience who are left wondering whether to ponder or laugh. She’s also drawn her male office workers to be one-dimensional dolts who lack an ark. But perhaps this is her point? Some men are happy to stay ignorant. Does that mean that–like Sofia–we should meet them where they are in order to recondition them? Or do we walk away with our pride intact and claim them as worthless causes?
Jeanne Sakata rounds out this six-person cast as Sofia’s Mother, a woman trying desperately to connect with her daughter who refuses to execute her own lesson of empathy.
Do You Feel Anger? is an acquired taste, but Nelson-Greenberg’s voice is both audacious and admirable. Margot Bordelon keeps the quirky proceedings moving at a nimble pace and directs a first-rate cast attuned to the play’s distinct style.
Do You Feel Anger? runs through April 27th at Vineyard Theater 108 E. 15th St. NYC. For tickets and information, visit vineyardtheatre.org