How does one process unspeakable pain in losing a loved one to violence? Sanguine expressions of “thoughts and prayers” have no place in The Powers That Be, a hard rocking contemplation on the anguish that predators and killers leave behind. Deborah Randall has tackled the unthinkable, capturing and fully expressing the pain and misery of those struggling every single day to heal and move forward through stifling flashbacks. Randall’s powerful production puts words, movement, screams and shouts to honor the memories of loved ones mercilessly snatched away, brutalized and silenced.
Randall’s ideas started taking shape through her reflections on her dear sister-friend and beloved actress Tricia McCauley who was brutalized and murdered Christmas Day three years ago.
Grief-stricken with constant thoughts, hearing her chummy messages, her soothing voice, Randall started taking these ruminations and imagined Tricia with a legion of others on the other side of a thin veil—the reason we can still hear their haunting voices so present inside our heads. Goddess archetypes gave voice to the silenced, powerful women who persist, scream, shout, renounce the evil and will be heard!
Randall was also struck by how society nurtures and rewards perpetrators in what should be safe places – schools, gyms, doctor’s offices, churches, in some cases not even tucked away but in full view. What? How, she asks, in this age of digital reasoning,do people still opt for satanic leaders with cult followings and proven misogynists, and even elect them to lead the free world?
[adsanity_rotating align=”aligncenter” time=”10″ group_id=”1455″ /]
Randall (Anu, Mother Earth) jams on her bass guitar and opens her heart and tremendous capacity to share her grief and sorrow. She even represents the horror of being sadistically bound and gagged, front and center at the top of the show. With strength and sheer will, she demonstrates the only way to secure her freedom is to renounce the hideous tenets of toxic male-dominated power culture. One by one, she rebukes messages that keep women doubled-bounded, noting that, perhaps for self-survival, some women even enable and assist the perpetrators.
An ensemble of women beautifully captures the sentiments of the language and songs (by Randall and Alan Scott.) Jasmine Brooks is captivating as Amina (Warrior/ruler). She opens the show with a gutsy glare and gorgeous contralto voice feeling the “Weight of the World” on her shoulders, grieving over her baby girl senselessly gunned down, and bringing women into the fold with “Sing to me Sisters.”
When one of the newcomers to the goddess fold, Eire, Goddess of the Land (Camryn Shegogue) admits that her most comforting and familiar musical is “Fiddler on the Roof,” the ladies soon riff on the famous tune with lyrics about “Permission” (from Tradition, get it?”) Yes, there’s fun and humor interspersed along the show’s grieving way.
The talented Amy Rhodes, who also handled the set and lights, floated along in a sheer white caftan offering wisdom, warmth and wit as Benten (eloquence, wisdom, art). In counterpoint to Randall’s rage belting “Spiraling Down” Benten gently nudges all to “Spiral Up.”
Rikki Howie as Inari (death, kinship, ghosts, fertility and love) nails ‘Little Girl” with its menacing warnings about monstrous men. Myrrh Cauthen as Anansi (spiderwoman-Fear, Storytelling and Connection) struts her stuff with reflections on the spread-eagled sexualized scene that some say clinched Halle Berry’s Best Actress Academy Award for “Monster’s Ball’ with a this-is-how-they-see-us, reality. Then of course, ‘there be monsters among us’ walking and stalking to their hearts content.
The show calls out the names of some of the fallen, honoring them solemnly with candles along the edges of the stage as representatives of so many nameless faceless others.
Randall’s piercing lyrics work beautifully with the catchy melodies and memorable songs by her husband Alan Scott, an impressive collaboration. Neil McFadden’s sound design kept the joint rocking highlighting a furious pulsating bass that softened and blended for tender moments.
The Powers That Be – A Rock Opera closes December 15, 2019. Details and tickets
Still, it’s a lot and some sections are cringeworthy, dealing with excruciating pain with tough messages and language, a searing raw work in progress. Randall is obviously working through her grief and loss exacerbated by her own ongoing PTSD recovery from trauma that Tricia was helping her through their 23 years of friendship.
As a brand new performance piece, the show somewhat holds together enough to be entertaining. Along its development, though, the creators will need to come to grips with its intention, intended audience and purpose for it to get wings and fly. For example, just when thematic issues seemed to be drawing to a close, a last song on Jeffery Epstein left the audience dangling and baffled – why was it there? Is it over? Why end on that message? What did it all mean?
All in all, Randall’s basic premise is perfectly stated and with time the piece will grow into a more realized production. Malicious predators and perpetrators seem to win by silencing voices, wreaking havoc. What if women could reclaim their voices, she asks, their agency, their expressions. —“What if every silenced voice could step up and he heard? One by one. What if women embraced the diverse sounds of their own voices?” That answers the questions for me — yes, “The Powers That Be” is noteworthy, has value, is captivating, exuberant and uncomfortable, but healing.
The Powers That Be – A Rock Opera Words by Deborah Randall; Music by Alan Scott; Director— Deborah Randall; Cast: Jasmine Brooks, Myrrh Cauthen, Deborah Randall, Amy Rhodes, Camryn Shegogue, Rikki Howie . Set and Lights— Amy Rhodes; Costumes and props –Deborah Randall; Movement Advisor–Carol Hess; Sound Designer— Neil McFadden; Produced by Venus Theatre . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.