What is abuse anyway? The word conjures up certain cliched scenes and images from pop culture, but it can be subtler and more insidious than physical assault or verbal violence. Many in abusive relationships won’t recognize them as such until time and reflection gives them clarity. That’s the case for the intentionally unnamed narrator of award-winning playwright Kati Schwartz‘s audio play Bad People, which features a full cast of voice actors directed by Meredith Lucio.
Presented as a confessional podcast with the narrator (Amanda Nicholas) telling her #MeToo story, Bad People takes the audience through various moments in the narrator’s life through flashbacks, often accompanied by sound effects.
We start by learning that the narrator has been iced out by her entire group of friends in Los Angeles and is just now coming to terms with what happened. Over the course of the play, which is a little over an hour long, the narrator explores the ups and downs and unwinding of her relationship with a powerful and famous man about a dozen years her senior.
At the word “relationship,” most assume some sort of romantic entanglement. But that’s not the case here. The narrator is gay, and her relationship with the man is a platonic, though intensely emotional, friendship. Most #MeToo stories that made headlines following the explosive Harvey Weinstein reports in 2017 spoke of abuse that was sexual in nature. Bad People explores how it can manifest in a non-sexual way, through emotional manipulation, grooming, and social control.
It also takes the listener (or reader, for those who pick up the text version) through the aftermath of the abusive relationship – the narrator’s winding journey through profound grief, close self examination, and finally healing. The story isn’t a straightforward one about a saintly and an evil abuser; it delves deeper to explore the narrator’s own complicity and isn’t always a flattering portrait. By exploring these elements, Bad People reveals some uncomfortable truths and offers insight into how those who consider themselves rational people can still be taken advantage of by the powerful and the charismatic.
Despite its weighty subject matter, Bad People is not all doom and gloom. The narrator’s dark humor and snarky tone – plus some fun references to The Lord of the Rings – makes the audio play an entertaining listen. The conversational style of the writing makes the narrator instantly relatable. Truly, she feels like a real person, and that’s probably because there’s truth behind the story (the play is Schwartz’s own #MeToo story).
For more information on Schwartz’ work, visit her site.