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Off Broadway

“Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven”, but Not Before They Have Their Say

“Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven”, but Not Before They Have Their Say

Liza Colón-Zayas, Andrea Syglowski Photo by Monique Carboni

Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven” has a fittingly vulgar title to match the whip-cracking dialogue that will sizzle and embed itself down to your bones. This three hour long look at life is co-produced by the Atlantic Theater Company and LAByrinth Theater Company. This large ensemble is set in a halfway house for troubled women. The plot is nil, just the everyday life of the staff and occupants of Hope House, a government-funded residence for women in New York City.

Esteban Andres Cruz Photo by Monique Carboni

They aren’t angels; many are addicts to alcohol or drugs and they have all been battered. Sarge (Liza Colón-Zayas), a vet, is in a relationship with Bella (Andrea Syglowski), whose abusive alcoholic husband is still stalking her. She is in the residence with her infant son, but she is also an addict. Bella is friends with Venus Ramirez (Esteban Andres Cruz), a transgender woman who shoots up with her. Sarge has a short fuse and is not fond of Venus stating, “You know there ain’t but so many beds for women in this city—and right now, this tranny bitch’s junkie man-dick is taking a real woman’s bed—and costing a real life woman her real life!” She may not be right in her reasons, but in the end she is right on the overall picture. Venus will escalate destruction, yet still offer humanity to Betty Woods (Kristina Poe), who hates her own imperfect body. These are just a handful of the residents.

Photo by Monique Carboni

Even the woman in charge, Miss Rivera (Elizabeth Rodriguez), cares immensely about these women, but suffers from her own dependence on alcohol. In a sense, battered men and women are people you may not realize you know in real life, but, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million men and women. So, there’s a fair chance you do. 

Kristina Poe Photo by Monique Carboni

It is difficult to single out the acting in this piece, as each actor is so authentic and raw. Victor Almanzar, David Anzuelo, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Elizabeth Canavan, Sean Carvajal, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Molly Collier, Liza Colón-Zayas, Esteban Cruz, Greg Keller, Wilemina Olivia-Garcia, Kristina Poe, Neil Tyrone Pritchard, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Andrea Syglowski, Benja Kay Thomas, Pernell Walker, Viviana Valeria, and Kara Young all stepped up to sincerely heartfelt performances. Kudos to John Ortiz on a masterful direction. Ortiz is a co-founder and the current artistic director of LAByrinth. He truly understands how to simply let his actors live these roles.

Esteban Andres Cruz, Andrea Syglowski Photo by Monique Carboni

Narelle Sissons’ multi- level set design, Alexis Forte’s costumes, Mary Louis Geiger’s lighting and Elisheba Ittoop sound design all add a slice of reality to portray the true struggle of the lives of battered women and men.

Guirgis’ play sheds light on the true meaning of what real life people in a real life situation go through in a way that creates a sense of understanding and humanity, rather than the unfortunate dismissive judgment of many individuals. You may not want to see this slice of life in reality, but Guirgis’ lays it down bare in this case. 

Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven: Produced by LAByrinth Theater Company and Atlantic Theater Company, Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th St., until Jan. 5, 2020

Off Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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