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f***plays: Somewhat Flaccid.

I have to applaud the companies Working Man's Clothes and the Thursday Problem for conceiving an ambitious project like fuckplays, currently playing 9 shows at 2 venues through April 27th.  Eight new one-act plays from today's up-and-coming playwrights, exploring sex and the events leading up to or proceeding from sex sounds good on paper; unfortunately, although the plays are marvelously produced and acted, the scripts themselves are not always that interesting.  In most cases, they're trying so hard to be naughty, they're just tiresome.

The presentation of the plays is gorgeous; there is no awkward waiting around between scenes, as many things are done in front of the audience (including actors changing, lounging about in underwear during intermission).  A dominatrix stage manager, ahem, dominates the stage, helping to change scenes, but is never given a scene of her own.

The plays, in order, are:

  • The Impotence of Being Ernest:  Written by Joshua Hill and directed by Julie Rossman
Naturally, this play is a nod to the Wilde Thing himself; it's an entertaining skit, in which the humor is largely based talking about highly sexual things in epicene British accents.  It's a one-joke gag, but it's a very funny joke, and doesn't go on for too long.  Adam Belvo and Charlie Wilson, as Ernest and Ernest, rouged and painted, sip tea, suggestively eat sausages, and make the most of their roles.
  • Marriage Play: Written by Bekah Brunstetter and directed by Diana Basmajian 

An innocuous little piece about a wife who's never had an orgasm; somewhat confused by initially portraying food as a sexual metaphor and then dropping it for no reason; it seemed like two plays in one and didn't quite jell into a totally coherent point.  Erin McCarson and Jared Culverhouse, as Sweetie and Hubby, work delightfully together and are hilarious in their roles.  There was more suggestive sausage-eating in this play...

  • Arms and the Octopus: Written by Casey Wimpee and directed by Isaac Byrne (assistant directed by Cat* Johnson) 

Not a nod to the Shaw, this is perhaps the most provocative of the plays, providing an afterlife view of the promised virgins waiting in paradise for a suicide bomber.  It's powerfully written and gorgeously directed.  Julian James Mohamed is sometimes difficult to understand as Amir, but Kaci Gober, Elizabeth Kensek and Eboni Hogan more than make up for it as the houris.

  • Wood: Written by Justin Cooper, directed by Steven Gillenwater. 

I found this to be the best and most touching of the plays, about a woman with a certain fetish that only a certain man can provide.  I don't want to be more specific, since the surprise was one of the best things about the piece.  The performances by Amy Lynn Stewart and Steven Strobel are perfect.

  • Sharpen My Dick: Written by Greg Romero, directed by Cole Wimpee 

I frankly have no idea what was going on here.  There's a horny businessman who wants his penis to be a knife, a girl chained to a wall, and a guy who doesn't say much.  I thought at first it was supposed to imply that the girl was an Internet avatar of the quiet man, but later events just confused me.  If anyone does understand what the heck was actually happening or where they were supposed to be, please enlighten me.  The acting by Robert Funaro, Lucy Walters and Will Neuman was fine for what it was; I just didn't understand the script.

  • Candy Room: by William Charles Meny, directed by Thomas Caruso.  Original Music by Linda Dowdell. 

This is listed in all the press material as Getting Lost in the Candy Room, but is only Candy Room in the program, for some reason.  It's a Slice-of-Life piece, where a "Voice" personated onstage as a narrator, observes 5 friends (of each other) at a trendy new nightclub.  The voice strips bare the inner life of the characters for us; it's almost well-written until we get to Dillinger, the homosexual character, who is portrayed as pathetic, predatory and ridiculous.  Admittedly, no one in the play is happy, but none of the other characters are judged by the Voice; he only recounts their foibles.  This "poor deluded loveless homo trying to get into the pants of the straight men" portrayal would not have been out of place in 1953 (of course, maybe it's the character's own fault for hanging out with such irritating straight people instead of going to a Gay bar).  THIS faggot was annoyed. 
It's well-acted by John Flynn, Alessandra Ziviani, Mark Thornton, Molly Ward, and Mick BleyerMolly Ward is especially funny, hitting every laugh as the bitter Polly.  The night I was there, an actor was unavailable, and Paul Fears (wardrobe assistant) stepped in as Dillinger (possibly because he could fit into the silver vinyl pants and tight sleeveless shirt that of course homosexuals wear).

  • The Saddest Thing in the History of the World: Written by Kyle Jarrow, directed by Matthew Hancock 

This is a strange little two-hander which starts with a flirtatious question of whether "Crazy" or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is the saddest thing, and ends, rather predictably, with assassination.  Michael Mason and Elliotte Crowell handle the amusing language with aplomb.

  • 1.1-1.7: Written by Eric Sanders, directed by Stephen Brackett
A funny piece about a young couple who are completely honest with each other about their bizarre extra-relationship affairs.  Cole Wimpee and Nell Mooney are adorable and amusingly deadpan as they describe to each other their progressively more degenerate liaisons.  The play goes very far with graphically descriptive language; it's played for comedy, but I was afraid some of the audience members behind me were going to vomit at one point.

For an evening of plays ostensibly about sex, the evening is not particularly sexy or titillating.  One would think plays about sex would be a turn-on, but, at least for me, this was not the case.  The press packet claims there is nudity, but there is none, though the couple in the final play do strip to their underwear (the girl in clinging stuff, the boy in oversize boxers (which I'd already seen at intermission)), and many of the women are frequently scantily clad.  All the plays but one are written by (presumably straight) men, so it's perhaps unsurprising that most of the plays evoke the female form, and especially submission and violence.  There isn't much for women or gay men to appreciate here- women are portrayed as sexual objects in most of the plays, and the lone gay character has no sex.

In the press kit, they claim that they received over 50 submissions of one-act-plays for this festival; why they chose these eight is occasionally puzzling.

Still, on the whole, the evening is diverting, and I laughed a lot (especially the first half), and since the house was packed the night I was there (and they reportedly sold out opening night), I don't imagine they'll have much trouble selling the sex.

fuckplays was hand-picked by Soho Thinktank Artistic Director Robert Lyons to premiere at the Ohio Theatre (66 Wooster St. btwn. Spring and Broome—C/E to Spring Street) on Wednesday, March 28th, where it will play five performances through Sunday, April 1st (Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm).  The production then transfers to the Galapagos Art Space EVOLVE Series in Williamsburg (70 N. 6th St. btwn. Wythe and Kent—L Train to Bedford Ave.), curated by Artistic Director Travis Chamberlain, where it plays all four Friday nights in April:  Friday, April 6th at 7:30pm; Friday, April 13th at 7:30pm; Friday, April 20th at 7:30pm; and Friday, April 27th at 7:30pm.

Tickets for fuckplays are $15 and can be purchased at www.smarttix.com or by phone at (212) 868-4444.  For more information, please see www.workingmansclothes.com.

Photos by Reedfa: 1) Kaci Gober, Eboni Hogan and Elizabeth Kensek; 2) Robert Funaro, Lucy Walters, and Will Neuman


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From This Author Duncan Pflaster

Duncan Pflaster is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been produced all over. He also has been known to direct, write music, play the ukulele, (read more...)