"Hell Hath" Some Issues Review

I just wish God would send me my man.

What do you think of when you think of Tyler Perry? By boldly placing his name at the top of his projects, he has allowed or even forced you to pigeon-hole him from the posters alone. The Madea franchise with Perry playing the dragged up old caricature would be and was enough to make him a household name even with folks who hadn't seen a minute of its screentime. Perry cut his teeth in the Atlanta in the 1990's, writing and producing his Christian-themed plays for community theater to black audiences. That target group has stayed with him and expanded so that, with their strong devotion, every film project he has will double its budget at the very least. According to Forbes magazine, Lionsgate put up half the budget for Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) with a little help from BET and it made ten times its budget. "Now we realize what we have,” said Lionsgate president, Steven Beeks. There's a tinge of exploitation to that statement as there is with Perry's ruthless prolificacy. In 2005, Perry was filling his "the 300 live shows he produces each year are attended by an average of 35,000 people a week." Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned (2014) is just such a production and, on this DVD, his audience is in full attendance.

Anita (Cheryl Pepsii Riley) has hit 40 and she still isn't married. Five years ago--a detail drilled into my mind by its frequent repetition--Anita was left at the alter. But she's over it. Yeah, completely over it. No trust issues, not jaded or paranoid. Very confident in her six-figure salary and six-figures in savings. [Note: If you have six figures in savings, you're letting inflation ravage its value. Invest. Blue chips won't make you a mint, but they'll work.] Grandma Hattie (Patrice Lovely) gives her (and everyone else) endless grief and vague advice on how to get a man. But Anita is happy with going to church and being complacent. Her friend Jasmine (Monica Blaire) changes all that when she secretly makes up a dating profile for Anita and, conveniently, already has a date lined up.

The date is with Randy (Muhammad Ayers)--"Yes you are"--whose sweetness and understanding is unparalleled. The man dates her for a month and doesn't even get a kiss out of it. But at the end of that month, Randy convinces her to marry him. Then his true colors come out and it's clear that he's essentially robbed her because marriage makes her property their property. [Note: This isn't true. In Georgia, there's marital property (theirs) made during the marriage and non-marital property (hers or his) made prior to the marriage. Now, there was something he said about signing the house into community property, so that's a wrinkle, but she didn't lose everything.] Beware of scorn

The play uses this quotation, and the past participle in particular, as the cornerstone of its resolution. In fact, the fury of hell is used not poetically, but physically. Perhaps a more convenient quote would be that "hell hath no brutality..." I always took the quote to come from Shakespeare--maybe The Taming of the Shrew or Macbeth--but the quote (or, rather, misquote) is from William Congreve's The Mourning Bride: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” At its best, this concept is shown through the subtle manipulations and psychological terrors a craft woman can instill in a man. Here, Anita chains Randy up in the basement and beats him with a baseball bat. Somehow, [Spoiler Alert] she gets a pass and it's the bigamous Randy that finds himself behind bars.

This is rather disgusting. You can't Kathy Bates a guy and be neither punished nor remorseful and still be interesting. You absolutely can not do this and maintain some semblance of a Christian attitude. And yet the audience that we hear in this recorded stage play is absolutely on board. Sometimes the audience laughs too much at Hattie's ludicrous behavior and pop culture reference, the latter making this project little more than a pantomime, which was irksome. Sometimes they jeer at Randy's disingenuous invocation of Bible verse, which was pleasing. Then they flat out cheered as Anita beat this guy up and continued to do so as Anita explained (via narration) that she was doing so in revenge for all the ladies who have been hurt and screwed over by men. So scapegoating the odious Randy is fine. Soon after, the reverend gets Anita back to Jesus and tells her she needs to forgive Randy. I've never seen a more angry forgiveness in my life.

If there was any hint that these moments were played for irony or Christian hypocrisy, it would be a deeply impressive and meaningful bit of work. It wasn't and it isn't. Anita, in her confrontation, pulls out some pretty pathetic conservative anti-feminist thoughts with "because I am strong in my submission" being the worst offender. Mr. Perry comes out on stage after the bows to tell us what the play was all about, and seeing past the lies in your own rationalizations didn't make the cut. As the credits start to roll, audience members sing Perry's praises over and over, coming from quite far away to enjoy this particular performance. Then it dawned on me that this was a Tyler Perry production. Tyler Perry isn't on the top of all his projects because he's an indispensable part of it. He's got more than a couple shows broadcasting every year. It's a brand and his fans are loyal to it. It isn't that he's a hack, it's that he's so successful in building his customer base and content formula that he doesn't need to be good to be profitable.

Oh hey, it's a musical. Everyone in the cast is a very talented singer. Acting...not so much. Though Riley did strike me as the most genuine presence.


Behind the scenes interviews.

"Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned" is on sale November 25, 2014 and is not rated. Theater. Written and directed by Tyler Perry. Starring Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Patrice Lovely.

Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.


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