Crazy Betty by Charlotte Higgins
tw/cw for play: oblique mentions of sexual assault, sexual assault in the workplace, guns onstage, threat of sexual violence and threat of violence towards women
Synopsis: (from NPX) CRAZY BETTY is the darkly comedic adventure of two women trying to beat a system run by a bunch of local male dimwits. All Betty wants from her dollar store job is a decent shift and insurance to get a hip replacement. Annie, fresh out of prison, can’t get a job any place but the local strip club. Bound together by the death of someone they loved, the two women try to outrun their past but find it’s been lying in wait all along.
Cast: 2 F (60s and 20s), 3 M (20s, 40s, 60s)
Key Words/Themes: Rural America, lead elder character, subjugation of women, economic distress
My Thoughts: Higgins skillfully builds the world of the play and her characters through subtle, slow reveals of information. There’s no “information dump”; we find out about relationship history, economic situation, and character’s emotions through tiny little tells. The two richest characters are Betty and Annie, who share an unconventional bond. Betty clearly sees Annie as a younger version of herself, and though she doesn’t seem to like Annie very much, she goes out of her way to help her. For her part, Annie clearly cares for Betty even though she’s intimidated by her. The two support one another through some of the most trying circumstances I’ve seen in theater lately.
This play deals with virtually every issue facing rural Americans today: drug abuse, glorification of guns/lack of gun safety, sexual assault, teenage pregnancy, bible-thumping, lack of healthcare, and economic distress. However, Crazy Betty doesn’t go overboard or in an after-school special direction with these issues. They’re presented as simple facts of life, and not cried about, just dealt with. By the time Betty gets sent to prison, I was relieved on her behalf – at least in prison she gets healthcare, has supervision in her old age, and has air conditioning.
Where I Found It: NPX