The Law and Order franchise, SVU, has liberalized a significant cultural taboo. Rape victims are told in each crime episode that the dignity brutally wrested from them is theirs to reclaim. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, Michael Yates Crowley’s play, presented in a world premiere by The Playwrights Realm at the Duke through September 23rd, is also about empowering the victim. Crowley, however, does not feel that our cultural conversation about rape has the frankness and openness we like to think it does.
“R-a-p-e” is not treated with the solemnity it is given by Lt. Olivia Benson in Crowley’s play. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias sets a light, almost farcical tone as Grace (Susannah Perkins) recounts the assault. It begins as a sweet and rather awkward love story between two shy youngsters. Jeff (Doug Harris) is a football star with little poise off the field. Grace is an oddball 14-year old, thrilled that Jeff knows her name from class. The team quarterback, Bobby (Alex Breaux) (and Jeff’s closest friend) is jealous of the pair’s developing friendship.
It is also in that class that The Teacher (Andy Lucien) introduces an artwork by Jacques Louis David, technically called The Intervention of the Sabine Women that inspires Grace and circumscribes her experience.
The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is about meeting outrage with humor. Grace’s world is not torn apart after she is raped. The Guidance Counselor (Eva Kaminsky) and Grace’s best friend Monica (Jeena Yi) both seem disappointed at how composed Grace seems. The Lawyer (Jeff Biehl) is only concerned that she deliver a coherent narrative to the Grand Jury.
Some of the storyline in The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is delivered by The News (Chas Carey) who periodically announces the day’s events in the town of Springfield.
Under Tyne Rafaeli’s direction, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias moves quickly; the cast smoothly characters portrays a townful of people. Andy Lucien is particularly vivid as a charismatic “preacher.” one of the many roles he undertakes. In fact, the ensemble’s ability to shift and adopt a new persona gives The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias almost the feel of improv.
There is humor and wit in Michael Yates Crowley’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, which by no means undermines the seriousness of its subject matter.
For more information and tickets for The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, please visit the Playwrights Realm website.