Intimacy: In brief
The New Group continues its impressive commitment to provocateur Thomas Bradshaw (Burning) with the world premiere of his play about pornographers living next door to respectable suburban families. Scott Elliott directs a cast that includes Ella Dershowitz, Laura Esterman and Daniel Gerroll.
Intimacy: Theater review by David Cote
Imp-of-the-perverse scribe Thomas Bradshaw (Job, Burning) runs a tough obstacle course. On the one side there’s the small, conservative, aging theater audience, easily shocked and quick to exit huffily at—or before—intermission. (See reader comments below this review.) On the other side there’s, well, the rest of the culture. Nymphomaniac in the multiplex. Masters of Sex in prime time. Both of which make his porn-in-suburbia satire, Intimacy, look pretty tame. True, we get two healthy ejaculations from prosthetic dongs (watch out, front row!) and plenty of full frontal, but without much cause to care about the situation or characters, limp and dry puns starting coming (sorry) to mind.
Bradshaw’s dialogue, a curious alloy of sketch-comedy deadpan and unfiltered tastelessness with flashes of poetic honesty, occupies a neatly plotted structure: the neighborhood comedy-drama. Despite the tale’s omnipresence of porn, both online and filmed by randy young cinéaste Matthew (Austin Cauldwell), there’s not one vaginal penetration in the play. Instead, characters young and old engage in masturbation, fellatio and anilingus. Touchingly, the last act helps one couple’s marriage. There's some icky business between parents and children, but nothing you'd call straight-up incest.
Bradshaw’s view of sex is anything but shocking: We should do what feels good, communicate with our partners and not let religion or labels fill us with guilt. He and director Scott Elliott steer us to this uncontroversial message with a game bunch of actors. If the cast is uneven or uncertain at moments, that only enhances the slightly tacky, caricatured nature of the material. Seasoned thespian Daniel Gerroll is most effective as an uptight Englishman whose grief over a dead wife has driven him into pious puritanism. But then, he has more of a journey than the rest, who are mostly okay with their proclivities. These include porn-star-next-door Janet (Ella Dershowitz), down-low bisexual dad Fred (David Anzuelo) and his cancer-survivor daughter, Sarah (Déa Julien), as sweet as she is into frottage.
Despite the reputation of his work to inspire cringing or averted eyes, Bradshaw insists in interviews that he’s not trying to provoke—really! After Intimacy, a piece that offers more challenges to the stage-cleaning crew than the average playgoer, I believe him. In fact, more provocation would have been nice. It’s like the playwright rolled over and started snoring.—Theater review by David Cote
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