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Halfway Bitches Go Straight To Heaven


Halfway Bitches Go Straight To Heaven


                                   By David Schultz


This highly respected playwright has a unique predilection for unusual titles. As these various past plays can attest…Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Our Lady of 121st Street, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, and his most recent From Riverside to Crazy, which won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2015. This poetic playwright has always championed the underclass and the underrepresented in society. Giving the usually voiceless a vibrant voice. And what sweet voices this newest addition produces in spades. An unusually dense cast of characters fills the stage with 18 actors splayed out onto the intimate stage of The Atlantic Theater.


As the lights come brashly and glaringly to life the entire cast is in full view in set designer Narelle Sissons impeccably rendered set detailing a run-down halfway house in the gentrified Upper West Side of Manhattan. How is it possible to follow each character, much less keep a score card to follow each one as a distinct individual? If you have been following this playwright for the last 20 years, it will become readily apparent. As the evening progresses, each and every person personified is given their own unique voice and backstory. In no time flat, the complexities and convolutions of plot quickly gain in speed as each downtrodden woman is given their emotional due. The humanizing effect gains an almost magical effect by evenings end.


The place that all these women reside in temporarily…though you get the sense they will never leave is a transitional halfway house. So many of them have issues…. drug related, alcoholic issues, life abuse issues, mental health issues, spouse abuse, teen prostitute issues, gay-Trans issues. But before you skip the thought of seeing this dreary sounding play, need I simply say that this work has butt gusting humor, with gorgeously written arias, and scenes that probe and prick the ears and heart. The language is rough and raw at times, but the natural rhythmic truthfulness makes it gut-wrenchingly real and accessible. The cast includes a plethora of wild intense folk, just to name a few..Sarge ( Liza Colon-Z ayas) , a bipolar Iraq veteran with a wild mean hair trigger temper, her sexy drug addicted former stripper gal pal Bella (Andrea Syglowski),



 she is drawn to her transgender sex worker Venus Ramirez (Esteban Andes Cruz)…they like to shoot up a bit of heroin, with a swig of booze as a chaser when they escape a bit in the park to commiserate together, Teenager Little Melba Diaz (Kara Young) loves to share her scintillating salacious poetry on occasion for the ladies in group, elegant and melancholy Wanda Wheels (Patrice Johnson Chevannes) nicknamed for her solitary life trapped in a wheelchair spinning tales of her youth and long ago dancing profession, Betty Woods (Kristina Poe) a self-hating obese woman who never bathes and doesn’t want to connect, Taina (Viviana Valeria) a sweet 20 something who even though abused in the past won’t let her mother go to the sanitarium, Mateo (Sean Carvajal) whose mother is gravely ill in hospital, as he ignores the painful truth of her condition,


 Miss Rivera (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who runs the home with an iron fist, yet cannot connect with her own estranged daughter. Father Miguel (David Anzuelo) who tries to comfort the heart and soul of this group, yet has a dark history and backstory that may indeed destroy his commitment to the church. Directed with a knowing and graceful hand by John Ortiz, the almost three-hour play gains momentum with each well-wrought scene. At times the action moves downstage to portray small intimate scenes that truly capture the emotional measure of each character. The incremental moments accrue as the evening winds down to its inevitable conclusion. In structure this formulaic drama would seem to implode on impact, but as each of these women discover their inner strengths the work comes to a heartrending conclusion.


Sadly, the play has already finished its run downtown, but with any luck in the near future it could very well find itself uptown on Broadway. Something this good and galvanizing should demand a wider audience.


Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street

866 811 4111