By Cyd Casados
Directed by Hannah Price
A Libby Brodie Production at the Tarragon Extraspace
July 21-August 6, 2017
The opening is literally a heavy-breathing sex act with frontal nudity for the bearded male in very tight quarters—a cramped studio apartment that is designed with palpable authenticity by Echo Zhou who is also responsible for costumes, though, to tell the truth, there’s very little need of clothing in what becomes a sequence of foreplay, intercourse, and aftermath. The coupling duo are Rebecca, an unabashedly carnal young doctor, and Steve, a painter. After the orgasm, things don’t go the usual route. “You smell like a girl,” she remarks, and what makes it worse is that she doesn’t know his name yet. Her carnality and the sex increase scene by scene, with her apparent amusement that she could be his nursing muse, despite having a relationship with another man. She is very much in the modern mode—or is it post-post-modern because she doesn’t regard sex as particularly complicated? He, however, is judgmental about her sexuality, especially when they become chronic lovers. She doesn’t really care, asserting that she likes sex when it comes with no expectations of anything else. “What do you want from me, anyway?” she asks. “I want to know more about you,” he declares, demanding that she be real with him. There is clearly a disconnect along the way because each one seems to be in a different zone of reality.
Cyd Casados’s ironically entitled 65-minute two-hander has a grainy, edgy texture and raw sexuality, and the short scenes give the play a sense of almost cinematic cuts. But all the gropings and undressings don’t ultimately yield much beyond a trite story of a relationship that goes wrong. Her text sometimes shows snappy wit (especially from Rebecca) but it moves into very familiar television territory, with sudden sensational complications (one involving Rebecca’s fucking a young patient with severe psychological problems), and an emotional fall-out that leaves Steve wracked with doubt, Rebecca without her job, and an ultimate conclusion that has her walking out of the relationship and Steve annihilating her painting of a butterfly with emblematic connotations.
Chris Malkowski’s lighting design relies on harsh top lighting to increase the rawness, just as Lyon Smith’s sound design makes bold connections with contemporary pop music. Hannah Price’s direction maintains a staccato rhythm but the acting sometimes suffers from a lack of subtlety or measured layering. Ludovic Hughes makes Steve credibly conflicted, and his acting seems to have more vocal and emotional range than Samantha Michelle’s as Rebecca, who sometimes appears to be on rhetorical and emotional auto-pilot.