Spotlight: The Second Coming of Joan of Arc

In Carolyn Gage's one-woman show, Joan of Arc does indeed return to earth, and she is righteously pissed. Dressed in combat boots and fatigues, Katie Kaufmann gives a fiery performance as she leads us through the last few years of her character's life—right up until Joan's death at age 19. Joan starts out recounting how her army deserted her during a crucial battle, then goes on to recount imprisonment, rape, her trial for heresy, and her burning at the stake. Gage's French heroine, it should be said, completely rejects sainthood and martyrdom. Instead, she's a self-described "real freak," complete with schizophrenic tendencies, a monster eating disorder, and a gender identity that can't be reconciled with the expectations of her era. Gage leans toward the didactic at times ("My trial is the trial of all women," Joan says, but we kind of get the point by then). And some of her assertions drift onto shaky ground: I won't agree, for instance, that all men are rapists given the opportunity. But the feminist stance fits nicely for 20%, a newish, all-woman company that takes its name from the limited stage opportunities available to female playwrights. Kaufman and director Clair Avitabile manage a brisk, attention-grabbing pace, and they make the most of the bitter humor brimming beneath the monologue. And lest you get the wrong impression, this Second Coming of Joan of Arc is no rant. Kaufmann maintains a brisk and colloquial tone, and when she decides to cut loose (during the assault Joan suffers in prison, for instance), the audience feels the full impact. "Our crime is our gender," Gage writes, and Kaufmann delivers it with eyes blazing. Joan may not have wanted to be a saint or a martyr, but this show admirably presses her into service as a vast, historical metaphor.

 
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