Dear Halley Feiffer,
On behalf of myself and my fellow men, I’d like to offer an apology. Not for who we are-as none of us had a choice in our gender when we were born-but for what we became. Your bold, thoughtful new play, The Pain of My Belligerence serves as a dire warning about the dangers of machismo. It also serves as an appeal to society: Let’s do better with our boys. We can mold them into strong, kind, and compassionate souls who respect others and aren’t afraid of emotional vulnerability. Or, we can continue to produce a virulent strain of hombres like Guy (Hamish Linklater), the ego-maniacal lothario who seduces your character, Cat, while married to Yuki (Vanessa Kai).
To those of you reading this letter and silently judging a single woman for willingly entering into a rendezvous with a man she knows is married, first of all, screw You. How many of you are living in the proverbial glass house? Second, I urge you to see for yourself how self-denial, seduction, and manipulation can cloud your best judgment. We all think that we know ourselves so well until our means of self-preservation fail us.
Your role as both star and playwright of this important work is beyond commendable and humbling. Eight times a week on the Off-Broadway stage of Playwrights Horizons, you are recreating your own emotional and physical pain-including your personal bout with lyme disease- in order to shine a light on our own human errors. These are the errors we somehow fail to correct, but instead, excuse as “just the way things are.” Your response: “Do better. Be better.”
Director Trip Cullman has done marvels with the timing of your incisive script. You, Linklater, and Kai have fine stage chemistry and handle this difficult material with precise amounts of humor and poignancy. Mark Wendland‘s beautiful zen-like set offers an excellent contrast to the chaotic and caustic world you all inhabit.
Your goal to topple male toxicity is perhaps a quixotic ideal. This play alone won’t do it, but it’s a strong gust of air towards positive change. In that sense, I’m reminded of Jacob Riis, the Danish social reformer who (paraphrasing) wrote:
“Look at the stone cutter hammering away at the rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first strike, it will split in two, and I know it was not the last strike that did it, but all that had gone before.”
Granted, he’s yet another old, dead, white dude in an incredibly long line of them who have created these problems. Yet I encourage you to keep hammering away, crafting the same terrific theater for which you’re known. With each strike, you draw closer and closer to pulverizing the patriarchy.
Thank you for bringing more awareness to this topic. It not only empowers women, but it gives men a front row seat into the macro and microaggressions that ladies endure on a continual basis. It also gives all of us the ability to understand that being a pompous, condescending jack-ass is never sexy. Neither is supporting one who holds the highest office in the land.
I wish you all the best as you continue to use the arts as a viable solution for change. May this show reach the eyes and ears of those who could most benefit. And again, I’m sorry that a majority of my fellow men have been pretty damn awful.
The Pain of My Belligerence runs through May 12th in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater of Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd between 9th and 10th). For tickets and information, click here.