American Berserk Theatre's Killer Girls
When the killer girls of this timely satire strike back at abusive bros, revenge is sweet, smart, and hilarious
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., May 18, 2018
Ferocity, thy name is woman.
Hamlet would no doubt amend his oft-quoted opinion of the so-called weaker sex to something like that were he to see the females who take on the patronizing patriarchy and abusive bros of Killer Girls. The five sheroes in this new play by local improv luminary Kaci Beeler don't just resist their oppressors, they beat them back, they put them down, they eviscerate them (and that ain't hyperbole). Beeler, her finger squarely on the pulse of this #MeToo moment, has crafted a dramatic outlet for all the frustration and fury felt by women now: a "pop horror revenge comedy" in which some of their sisters respond to male chauvinism and toxic masculinity, sexual assault and physical violence, with more than just a media statement or lawsuit; they use physical force to exact street justice on the men who torment them. They grab 'em by the pissers – and not metaphorically, either – and get to the root of the problem by cutting that root right off. And damn if drawing blood on these manipulative, malicious misogynists isn't cathartic – even for the men watching.
But getting to that sanguinary climax is half the fun of Killer Girls. Beeler was serious about making this a comedy, and she's brought to the script the same perceptive wit that she uses in her improv work. To ensure we know how prick-centric an environment her protagonists are stuck in, she has them attend John Wilkes Booth University in #yesallmen, Texas (where campus landmarks include the #billcosbystatue and #louiscklaughlounge). When her quintet of video-game-playing gals score an invite to an otherwise all-guy Fruit Ninja tournament in #grabherbythepussy, Florida, they're dazzled by the hotel's avocado toast bar. The pop-culture digs fly as fast and furious as shuriken thrown by shadow warriors, and the cast has the comedic chops to make them hit their marks. Beeler smartly sets her play in the gaming world, an arena built on conflict, where she has her women battle not only men players but a series of avatars representing masculinity at its most absurdly toxic: Pastor Dick Sunshine, Xander D. Fuckboi, Sgt. Mike Choad, and Mr. Smegma. The personal epiphanies the women experience in these fights unlock personal "powers" within the women – self-esteem! sisterhood! – that allow them to defeat these sexist cartoons.
Beeler's female fivesome is the sort of conveniently diverse group that populates sitcom offices and movies from Bridesmaids to The Breakfast Club: There's the Brain, the Badass, the Ace, the Alpha, and the One Whose Interests Are a Bit Vague So You Aren't Quite Sure What Role She Fills. They're such familiar types that the performers – Erin Molson, Angie Epley, Corey Maier, Margaret Hunsicker, and Angie Yaeyama, respectively – fit smoothly in their characters' shoes and make them feel like old friends of ours. Playing off them, and making the lives of the women characters miserable, are Christian Lewis, Way Spurr-Chen, Rob Yoho, and J.R. Zambrano. Each plays a handful of roles so that they cover the full spectrum of dude dickishness, from good ol' boy to mansplainer, from no-girls-allowed gamer nerds to no-chicks-need-apply rock snobs. No matter who they're playing, these men ooze testosterone and condescension, reducing the women to girls, telling them they can't fend for themselves, can't compete with men, that no one will take them seriously, that they'll never get anywhere on their own.
The steady stream of this demeaning shit talk makes you root for a reckoning, and one comes, although not before an act of repellent betrayal and violation toward the women. What happens isn't something you won't see coming and it may not be original, but it may well be necessary in setting up this particular play's final conflict. The debased treatment of women is taken to an extreme, and payback has to come in equal measure, in the only terms that men understand. The title already tells you exactly where this play goes, although it doesn't prepare you for the release you might feel as you watch a band of women, their hands and faces stained with blood, standing unjudged and free.
Killer GirlsHideout Studios, 2505 E. Sixth Ste. 3-C
Through May 27
Running time: 2 hr.