In her ominously titled feminist revenge comedy, “You’re Going to Bleed,” now world-premiering as part of Exit Theatre’s DIVAFest, playwright Melissa Fall co-opts some characters and tropes from theatrical literature.
For example, a marginally employed actor, John (as in Proctor, from Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”), is seduced by a teenager named Abigail (“The Crucible” again).
Here, John is Abigail’s audition-monologue coach. She’s preparing an erotic boy-and-horse scene from “Equus,” and that drama too figures into Fall’s plot in weird and abstract ways.
There’s also a glass unicorn figurine, borrowed from Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”
And there is other mixing of contemporary references, issues and themes — enough to make the play, ambitious to a fault, a bit of a mishmash.
Beginning with a comically inept (but too long) erotic film featuring John and Abigail, “Bleed” continues on to a nasty scene between John and his “angry-lawyer” wife, Anne.
John’s appalled because Anne wants to have sex with him when she’s menstruating — hence the “bleed” in the title. As the play progresses, blood takes on all sorts of meanings, none of them benign.
Things go from bad to worse when Abigail arrives for her private coaching session, with disastrous results, and when Anne’s sister, Helena, and her British husband — whom Helena married because he looks like Hugh Grant (actor Sam Bertken actually looks like Michael J. Fox) — show up for a visit.
Each character has a turn or two at a monologue delivered directly to the audience (amusingly, John’s misogynist rants are overheard by other characters, much to his dismay).
Through the monologues, we learn something about each one’s hopes and fantasies.
Fall aims for a darkly entertaining and provocative look at the battle of the sexes, from a feminist perspective. But the play tries to cover too much ground and quickly becomes convoluted.
Plus, with all five characters so distinctly unpleasant, there’s no solid perspective to latch onto — and, more problematic, no sense of deeper truths within the play’s absurdist trappings.
Part of that may be due to Claire Rice’s overly broad direction of an uneven cast. The actors never respond in even remotely convincing ways to anything. To laugh merrily while miscarrying, or to casually light a cigarette after strangling your lover, requires layered acting of the highest degree.
Only one brief monologue by teenage Abigail (delivered with a nice simplicity by Margery Fairchild) feels honest. The rest is posturing.
You’re Going to Bleed
Presented by DIVAFest
Where: Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes June 1
Tickets: $10 to $25
Contact: (415) 673-3847, www.divafest.info