The stage play Forsaken Angels confronts the several-billion-a-year illicit sex trafficking trade in the U.S. It’s bleak, intense and will have you muttering dismayed epithets—at the villains—and prayers—for the victims, as it entertains and educates you.
The play follows the travails of three young people who get pulled into the world of sex-trafficking otherwise known as “The Life.” First, we meet Audrey, who gets lured into “The Life” by Chris, a man she meets online through a distant relative.
Next we met Samantha, who’s mother is a prostitute continually out of her mind through years of drug abuse. Samantha is eventually sold into “The Life” by her physically abusive mother, making her a third-generation prostitute.
The third victim we see is Alex, a teenager kicked out of his home when he declares his homosexuality, and eventually pimped out by his first lover, the off-stage Joel. Though Alex’s storyline is mostly a third-wheel to Audrey’s and Samantha’s, actor Dwayne Allen brings a crushing pathos to his role in his multiple narrative monologues. Alex’s story is the definition of heart breaking.
You’ll see and hear things in this play you won’t want to hear. You’ll learn terms you’ve hopefully never heard of, like Gorilla Pimp, i.e. a pimp who controls their prostitutes through force and intimidation, like Queenie (the frighteningly-good Carol V. Calhoun) and Romeo Pimp, like Aiden (the smooth-as-silk Andre Pearson). If Queenie is the face of open-air-evil, then Romeo is the face of the smooth-talking confidence man.
The story starts in 2008 and unfolds through narration by the adult versions of Audrey (Kelly Richards) and Samantha (Melanie Pino-Elliot) and flashbacks played out by the younger versions of themselves, Brawnlyn Blueitt as young Audrey and the excellent, fierce Sara Castillo as young Samantha. Audrey, Samantha and Alex yearn to be loved and valued, and thus identify with the character Mia (Anne Hathaway) in the 2001 film The Princess Diaries.
Joanna also wrote the lyrics to the opening song “Angel Wings”, which was beautifully sung by Brigid Lally. Erika Harper Townes does a great job as Audrey’s mom Gloria, and Vanessa Berben brings cautionary strength to her role as Audrey’s friend, Kayla, who tries to warn her of the dangers of social media. David Insogna is chilling as the trafficker who buys young Audrey from her mom. WriterDirector William Dean Leary has put on a powerful, transformative piece.
Joanna Matthews pulverizes every scene she’s in as Samantha’s mom, Jolene. The physical and verbal abuse to young Samantha is terribly unsettling to watch, and one can only tell themselves “what’s on stage is not real.”
But the subject matter is real, and needs to be confronted and done away with. This show will make you squirm because the emotions it evokes are raw and unsettling, but please go see it anyway.
When you go:
Forsaken Angels by William Dean Leary
For tickets go to www.greenbeltartscenter.org or call 301-441-8770
9/18-9/20 and 9/25-9/27 • Fri/Sat 8PM, Sun 2PM
A guest production by Wolf Pack Theatre
Mature audiences only
(Strong language, sexual situations, and graphic violence. No one under 18 admitted without adult supervision.)