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The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias

A couple of weeks out from the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, Local Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Michael Yates Crowley's The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias. The title, of course, is a reference to what is commonly referred to as a "myth" about the founding of Rome, which has been immortalized in a number of classical paintings, including one by Jacques-Louis David (painted between 1796 and 1799) that hangs in the Louvre, and which serves as one of the backdrops for this play.

The Rape of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David
The Rape of the Sabine Women
by Jacques-Louis David
Photo: George Lange
Grace B. Matthias (Adeline Mann) is a high-school misfit, despite her friendship with Monica (Brynn Tucker), a cheerleader. The star quarterback for the Springfield Romans, Bobby (Peter Henry Bussian), makes fun of her and bullies her. His best friend, Jeff (Erik Fellenstein), the star receiver, takes a liking to Grace. This storyline is mixed with two other sequences: the legal proceedings of the rape case involving Grace, Bobby, and Jeff, with Grace's teacher (Rodney Lizcano), her Lawyer (Cajardo Lindsey), her Guidance Counselor (Mare Trevathan), and The News (Matthew Schneck) on the periphery; and, vignettes involving characters from the Roman myth, Romulus, Remus, and Hersilia. Given the intended overlaps between the contemporary storyline and a veiled segment of Roman history, director Christy Montour-Larson deftly balances a light approach to Crowley's comedic elements with what morphs into a serious examination of rape culture.

Erik Fellenstein as Jeff and Adeline Mann as Grace
Erik Fellenstein as Jeff
and Adeline Mann as Grace
Photo: George Lange
Mann is thoroughly captivating as Grace, capturing the awkward teenager's full range of emotions: innocence, honesty, loneliness, and, ultimately, her belief in herself, despite the deviant efforts of the school, the authorities and the law, and the media to paint her as a liar. As the title notes, Grace takes the story of the Sabine Woman, which is being discussed in class, and delivers a powerful explication that brings home the truth that has been played out from time immemorial.

(Left to right) Peter Henry Bussian as Romulus, Adeline Mann as Grace, and Erik Fellenstein as Remus
(L to R) Peter Henry Bussian as Romulus,
Adeline Mann as Grace,
and Erik Fellenstein as Remus
Photo: George Lange
This is Grace's story, and as such, she is the only non-caricature, with the rest of the characters representing distilled archetypes of the usual suspects in such cases. This is why the story is so timely: because it is repeated over and over. Just Google "football rape" or "football rape allegations" and look at what comes up. You'll see a constant stream of stories that follow a similar scenario: a woman comes forward with accusations of rape; she is grilled by the police, prosecutors, and school counselors, who treat her like she is the perpetrator, while the male is told not to worry about the charges by same set of "authorities." Even Sports Illustrated carried a similar story this week (October 30, 2017). Likely, very high in the search results, you will see articles on false accusations by women, which shows the bias of the search engines, given the proportion of actual rapes to false reporting.

The performances of the ensemble are terrific, striking a harmonic chord with Crowley's comedic barbs, as well as with his dark satire of a society that is, sadly, like Rome in so many ways.

Local Theater Company's presentation of The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, by Michael Yates Crowley, directed by Christy Montour-Larson, runs through November 19th. For tickets: http://www.localtheaterco.org/sabine-women.

Bob Bows



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