Washington Post - November 12, 2003

'Anger Box': Something Wicked This Way Comes
By Tricia Olszewski
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 12, 2003; Page C09

Leave it to Cherry Red Productions to stage a 75-minute show about God containing lines that can't be quoted in a family newspaper. But the show is, after all, titled "Anger Box," and what's a good tirade without a few -- or very, very many -- choice expletives?

"Anger Box" is a series of 10 monologues on topics ranging from the everyday, such as troublesome neighbors and tests of faith, to the taboo or fanciful, such as lusting after the pope or being Satan's girlfriend. It's written by Jeff Goode (author of an earlier Cherry Red work whose title can't be printed here), and each monologue is performed by a different actor. Many in the cast will be familiar to fans of the theater company, which used to boast it was dedicated to smut.

Now -- at least for the run of "Anger Box" -- Cherry Red, bless its wicked heart, claims to be dedicated to Jesus.

"Anger Box" opens with an eponymously titled diatribe, delivered by Jason Milner, that's not explicitly about God but rather about morality.

Dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans and sporting a dark, bushy beard, Milner looks like a drywall contractor who's barely making ends meet. His monologue, one of the most powerful of the evening, begins as a sound-off that could very well be coming from your neighbor: The foreign-born owner of a nearby gas station was killed, but nobody liked him anyway, and besides, when it's so difficult for Americans to start a business, why should locals be forced to put money in an immigrant's pocket every time their trucks run out of gas? The anger in these sentiments is palpable, but then the rant goes a chilling step further, suggesting that Milner's character is much more than a mere bigot and demonstrating how a dangerous mind can lurk behind an Everyman demeanor.

Though bookended by a similarly gut-wrenching reflection on Sept. 11, 2001, by Kathleen Akerley that sarcastically muses on God's artistry that day -- so precisely assembling the people who needed to be "tested" beside those whose time was simply up -- "Anger Box" mostly keeps the philosophizing light and shamelessly silly. Highlights include Monique LaForce, who gives a hilarious performance as Nike, slightly drunken goddess of victory who lost status when humanity developed the "It's how you play the game" attitude; Yan Xi as a power-hungry Devil-lover who justifies her relationship with her gangsta-like boyfriend by saying, "Yes, he's rough, but so is the commute!"; and Tony Greenberg, sporting a button-bursting red suit, Bible and pasted-on grin, who asks the members of the audience whether they've accepted Santa Claus as their personal savior.

"Anger Box's" theme, however, seems to be best expressed in "None-Believer," delivered by Cherry Red Artistic Director Ian Allen. Allen discusses the false logic of "just wars" (the point being to kill evildoers, "not the evildoers' children, not the Red Cross workers") and contends that most people wouldn't behave the way they do if they truly believed God existed. Claiming that he can't find a believer who isn't stumped, after asserting faith, by the simple inquiry "Really?," Allen spouts off a wonderfully breathless speech about the certainty of the Almighty and then says, "That's the correct answer." "Anger Box" doesn't profess to have all the answers, but it sure makes the questions fun.

Anger Box by Jeff Goode. Directed by Michelle T. Hall. Costumes, Rhonda Key; lighting, Jason Milner; sound, Lucas Zarwell. Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. Through Dec. 27 at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. Call 202-298-9077.