Do you feel anger? This is a question which may trigger angst among some people – and confusion among others, especially those who have trained themselves to feel nothing at all. Penned by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, the comedy taps into what it means to feel emotions, including anger, fear, and compassion. Originally produced in 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky, DO YOU FEEL ANGER moved off Broadway in 2019. After a hiatus of almost three years (courtesy of COVID-19), DO YOU FEEL ANGER makes its West Coast premiere performed by the Circle X Theatre Company in 2023.
Talk about a thankless job, Sofia (Paula Rebelo) has been hired as an empathy coach at a debt collection agency. Captained by Jon (Casey Smith), this is a crowd who can barely identify what an emotion is, much less practice deep, radical compassion for others. Jordan (Napoleon Tavale) and Howie (Rich Liccardo) are perpetually involved in “their own thing” – whatever that is – while Eva (Tasha Ames) seems caught up in her own inner, impenetrable world. After all, debt collection employees are not known for their benevolence, kindheartedness, and sympathy for the plights of others. Meanwhile, Sofia’s mother (Rose Portillo) has been trying just about forever to reach her absent daughter. Even if not thrilled by the thought of digging into their own psyches, the debt collectors appear to give at least a half-hearted attempt to understand, learn, and evolve. Therein hangs the tale.
DO YOU FEEL ANGER is helmed by Halena Kays, while Francois-Pierre Couture serves up an adequate set and lighting. Stephen Azua (lighting designer), Jesse Mandapat (sound design), and Dianne K. Graebner (costume design) fill out the creative production team.
Congratulations to a cast who seem committed to bringing this tale to life – even if the shriek level is often significantly elevated – with a special bow to Rose Portillo, who does a gentle and effective job of conveying Sofia’s mom, a lonely and frustrated parent. Humor is somewhat uneven, and at times it appeared that the crew couldn’t decide whether to go for laughs or tears. This is definitely a show for the millennials among us; and they will probably appreciate much of the humor. For this reviewer, it felt almost as if one sane person was thrown into the snake pit and came out bruised but maybe a little wiser.
DO YOU FEEL ANGER runs through February 25, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Circle X Theatre Company performs at the Atwater Village Theatre, located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets are $30 ($25 seniors/students; Pay-What-You-Can at the door every Sunday). For information and reservations, call 323-644-1929 or go online.