THEATER REVIEW: Queen of All Weapons

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
Over the course of 90 minutes, a meandering storyline is rescued by engaging, multidimensional characters and clever dialogue, with plenty of uber-depressing jokes to go around.
THEATER REVIEW: <i>Queen of All Weapons</i>

It may seem inappropriate to call a play that takes place entirely in one room disjointed, but that’s the best way to describe the only real problem with Queen of All Weapons. Over the course of 90 minutes, a meandering storyline is rescued by engaging, multidimensional characters and clever dialogue, with plenty of uber-depressing jokes to go around.

John Rosenberg’s three-person play (the subject of a feature in this week's City Paper) brings two drug-addicted former soldiers into close contact with Anna, a renegade member of the German terrorist group Red Army Faction. The war in Vietnam has just ended, and although both men served, their experiences are as different as their personalities. Mean, callous Maceo is still fresh from “the shit” in Vietnam, while romantic Kevin spent the war in Europe. When Anna shows up at the pair’s San Francisco apartment after being shunned by her friends and husband, Maceo disappoints her by revealing that regardless of what Kevin may have said in his letters, the closest the two have ever come to a revolution is selling drugs to Black Panthers.

In the arguments that follow, Rosenberg’s script explores the concepts of revolution, failure and jealousy, all while weighing the pros and cons of ardent dedication to a cause. Unfortunately, while these themes are well-developed, the way in which they’re discussed results in an episodic quality that pervades the entire play. I almost expected the text slides from Clerks to pop up during scene changes.

This does not, however, sound the death knell of the piece. The tension among the three characters was enough to raise my blood pressure, and James Tolbert’s gritty performance as Maceo simultaneously breaks and adds to the tension, such as when he masturbates to movies on TV, or when he informs Anna that although he made a Nazi joke earlier in the evening, it is still “too soon” for her.

As Queen of All Weapons draws to a close, it’s unclear whether the characters have learned anything or just spent a night talking and getting high. But since the play suggests that most revolutions amount to little more than people sitting around making big plans, maybe that’s just as well.

Queen of All Weapons runs through July 31, $10, Papermill Theater, 2825 Ormes St., 510-292-6403,

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