BWW Reviews: THE VILLAGE BIKE Offers a Thought-Provoking Ride
Eugene O'Neill described the period of a woman's heightened sexual desire as a strange interlude. Of course, that was 1923 and he was a guy.
Playwright Penelope Skinner titles her sweet and dark comedy about a woman's heightened sexual desire during her pregnancy with a blunter term, The Village Bike. If you're unsure of the meaning of the phrase, take a look in the Lucille Lortel lobby, where patrons can stick their heads into a life-size cutout of the play's logo; a frontal view of a woman in a short dress riding a bicycle with her legs spread open.
Greta Gerwig has an easy, affable charm and a subtle comic touch as Becky, a newly pregnant wife who finds herself equating her self-worth with her sexual desirability to men. Becky's husband, John (Jason Butler Harner), keeps himself satisfied with his porn collection and is more concerned with taking care of household matters than sex with his wife. He flippantly dismisses her attempts to initiate intimacy as the reaction of her hormonally-increased libido.
Symbolically, perhaps, their home's water pipes have been periodically setting off a deafening clanging and the next morning Becky, wearing a short robe and nighty, asks the genial plumber (Max Baker), if any special arrangement can be made when she can't pay right away.
Also arriving that morning is Oliver (sleazily masculine Scott Shepherd) delivering the used bicycle Becky is purchasing. While Oliver's wife is out of town, he and Becky start carrying on an affair, acting out his sexual fantasies.
When they finally act out one of Becky's fantasies, it's the kind of thing that will strike some as exciting and others as degrading, but Skinner and director Sam Gold are nonjudgmental about Becky's choices. The light, quirky tone of the evening subtly slips into potentially repulsive moments that creep in seamlessly.
Beneath the light comedy and the frisky thrills, there's some serious subtext about sexual politics and how some may react to it, making The Village Bike a thought-provoking ride.