Complicity is an absorbing, pungently played exploration of the stark truths and confounding complexities that spawned the Hollywood edition of the #MeToo movement.
It’s 2005, and aspiring starlet Tig Kennedy (a blazing performance by Katie Broad) gets a meeting with a bigshot Hollywood producer modeled closely on Harvey Weinstein, thanks as much to her hardworking, ambitious sister and agent Sima (a strong turn by Nadia Sepsenwol) as to her own talent. We don’t meet the producer, but his foul presence looms large throughout the action. What we are privy to are the various modes of enabling and abetting that permit such predators to get away with years, even decades, of serial victimizing with no accountability.
Proudly polemical, the play goes so far as to address the audience directly at one point. Playwright Diane Davis has wrought some of her characters larger than life. Fortunately the actors wrench believable characterizations out of roles that in lesser hands might at times appear as symbols as much as real people. In the event, we can recognize and align with their feelings and motives.
Twelve years go by. Finally Sima is able to help her traumatized sister stage a professional comeback. But Tig finds the past will not leave her be, pushing her into a hard pivot from acting to activism.
Complicity Is Everywhere
In parallel, Lilia Gordon, in a superbly nuanced performance by Christian Paxton, breaks a thick glass ceiling by becoming the first female studio head, after the Weinstein character’s downfall and a comically dramatized studio rebrand. Her hands are far from clean, but her seemingly cold-blooded ambition hides much more depth than appears at first. While Tig is a nearly unbroken blast of intensity, Lilia’s layers come to embody just as effectively the painful realities of a shining but oppressive patriarchal system.
Christian Prins Coen and Ben Faigus are good in smaller roles, though since these aren’t very well developed I wasn’t sure the two actors weren’t playing more than one each. Zach Wegner is an oily – and highly complicit – studio executive. Tonia E. Anderson plays a smarmy Black talk show host/journalist who helps widen the scope to acknowledge the very white (Lilia-white?) shade of Hollywood #MeToo. This aspect goes unexplored on the stage, though it seems Tig isn’t skirting it in the documentary she undertakes to make.
As important as the writing, pacing and performances is the staging – lighting, projections, sound, and Illana Stein’s smooth, cogent directing. A dramatic red-carpet moment and a distressing projection depicting young Tig’s rape are two standout elements of the often grippingly creative production underlying the human action.
Aside from a beautifully staged love scene, Tig is so mission-driven that I would have liked to have seen more facets of her personality. However I think it’s a tribute to Katie Broad’s intense focus that I wanted more of Tig. Her confrontation with Lilia in the play’s most potent scene is a gem on both sides.
Complicity seemed to go faster than its nearly 90 minutes, always a sign of a captivating show. It was also good to be reminded that as the world moves on to new crises, ongoing wrongs have yet to be adequately addressed. As the present protest movement in Iran suggests, patriarchy takes many forms and rooting it out is a project of centuries. Complicity, though, runs at the New Ohio Theatre only until October 15, 2022, so catch it while it’s here. Tickets to this Eden Theater Company production are available online.