The first days of April treated Alfred audiences to Rich B*tch by Rachel Lynett. Directed by Jonathan Ziese, assistant professor of theatre for AU, and starring Genesis Taina Luciano, Nkanyiso Dlamini, Stephanie Vargas, Shirite Westreich, and Erie Hammond, Rich B*tch is about a group of tough love, high status friends who knew each other in college and are now coming together to celebrate Emma (Dlamini)’s “bachelor” party.
Taking place in a five-star hotel in Las Vegas, audiences at Miller Theater watched as the friend group met and quickly self-destructed as each character brought their own secrets, trauma, and privileges to the table.
Topics like sexual violence, performative poverty, infidelity, marriage insecurity, race/gender/class intersectionality, and abortion carry the conversation over eight scenes–with the witty and bitchy banter to break up some of the more slow-paced and gutting exchanges.
Dani (Taina Luciano) is at the forefront of most of these exchanges, battling attacks (both perceived and legitimate) and dealing her own. Opening and closing the play, the audience had their experience primarily painted by whatever Dani is doing or saying to move the story along. The Las Vegas party wouldn’t have been the same without Dani, for better or for worse.
However, a part is often only as good as the ensemble. Izzy (Vargas) is played well, a woman caught between the past and future as she reconciles the present scenario of Dani versus Vivian (Westreich). Vivian is a more minor part, but Westreich doesn’t let audiences forget she’s there, in the ever-relatable position of being an afterthought in the grand scheme of another’s life. Dlamini’s Emma is boisterous and sympathetic, as many may not be able to relate to her position but can see why she is struggling in her rock-hard place dilemmas. Finally, Maddie (Hammond) is a well-meaning but brash woman that brings to light all of the questions of, “Why are these women still friends?” Hammond does well, though, in keeping her character memorable, if not infamously so, as the embodiment of the mistakes we see or hear about (or do) on a daily basis.
In conclusion, despite slower portions and clunky transitions between taboo or rough topics, the actors and the creative use of props and positioning made Rich B*tch a more elevated experience than if it had just been words on a page.