Rape against women in college is front and center in the news with the Vanderbilt case, the Haskell dorm rape, the Turner case and the Nebraska gang rape case. Kim Davies who penned the fabulous Smoke for The Flea Theatre has taken on this subject with her newest work Stet, now playing at the Abingdon Theatre Company in association with The Muse Project. Based loosely on the 2014 Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus” Stet, follows an ambitious and rather cold journalist Erika (Jocelyn Kuritsky) who has been assigned a story about the college rape epidemic. She is none too pleased to work on the subject, until it is alluded to be her first cover story by her editor, Phil (Bruce McKenzie). As Erika researches video’s of a Take Back the Night an event that seeks an ending of sexual and domestic violence in all forms, Erika stumbles upon Ashley (Lexi Lapp). Ashley’s story of being gang rape, not only horrifies Erika, but makes her boss even more possessed to run the story. The sexual violence that is happening to girls who attend college is 1 in 4. Even though the statistics are staggering, it takes sensationalism to sell papers and make waves. When Ashley wants to back down, refuses to name names and becomes distant, Christina (Dra Julien) who runs the college rape center shares her story. Even though it is heartbreaking , it is typical. College girl looking to let off steam, dresses sexually to impress, drinks to much, says no but that only means yes to her hormones raged predator. Look at the Brock Tunner case; he has yet to apologize, thinks drinking and college is to blame, refuses to take responsibility and his father condones this behavior and agrees his son should not be punished. Even the judge is lenient and gives him 6 whittled down to 3 months of jail.
As Erika is being pressured to finish the story and get the dirt she pursues Ashley who will not name names, refuses to be recorded and will not press charges. When Erika questions Connor (Jack Fellows) who may have been Ashley’s date and one of the attackers, he will only speak of how the frat that Ashley names, is educating other fraternity brothers on sexual misconduct.
In the end of Stet you are left with the feeling that Ashley lied about the amount of rapists and Erika who knows it does not pull the story. The problem with this is by the end this play you will be angered due to all the cases out there that are true. This piece is timely and there needs to be a discussion on the issues this play brings up.
The cast does a remarkable job about brining an authenticity to this piece, especially Dra Julien who breaks your heart with her story of Christina’s rape, but even more so when she knows her story will be swept under the rug again because she is just another statistic and a girl who should have known better. Lexi Lapp is good at making us believe Ashley up until the very end. Jack Fellows is the perfect Frat, who makes us wonder about the state of our society knowing these boys/ men lurk under false smiles and non existent morals. Bruce McKenzie, is a boss with a heart and by the end Jocelyn Kuritsky wins us over in her struggle. Director Tony Speciale (Unnatural Acts and The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey), brings the same kind of realism he does to his other work. Jo Winiarski’s transported the June Havoc Theatre into a variety of spaces with an impressive minimal set and Katherine Freer’s projection set the time and place.
Though I am a fan of Ms. Davis’s worked (I loved Smoke) Stet makes me wish this play showed more of the theatrical interactions that are only talked about. Ms. Davis work shines in her confrontations and the dance between characters. Having seen this show a couple of days prior to writing this review, I realize how angry this play makes me. Why does it have to have Ashley fabricating the truth? I get that Stet is based on a Rolling Stone’s article, but with what is going on in the news and the dismissal of girls/women’s rights to not being sexually assaulted and the lack of ramifications is mind numbing. Gratefully the night I did see this the Vanderbilt case was back in the news and finally a victory! The judge and the jury listened. When the statistics are 1 in 4 female students are sexually preyed upon, maybe we need to truly address this issue.
Stet: Abingdon Theatre Company in association with The Muse Project, 312 West 36th St. until July 10th.