Theater review by Adam Feldman
"Dude, we have to talk," says Jason (Bobby Moreno) to his sex buddy Mark (Anson Mount) after their latest furtive tryst. They have not worn condoms, and although both of them are on pills, Jason has discovered that he is…pregnant. This is but the first of many twists in Robert O’Hara’s audacious Mankind, a dystopian dark comedy set in a world in which women don’t exist; it is implied that they were driven to mass extinction by government regulation of their bodies, but those nefarious laws have lived on. After an attempt at a back-alley abortion, Jason and Mark become the centers of an unlikely new religious movement: feminism as dogmatic cult, fervently espoused (and twisted) by men.
Even as Mankind posits the radical adaptivity of male bodies, it suggests an equal adaptivity of patriarchal male rule, as potentially disruptive energies (same-sex desire, goddess worship) are absorbed into a larger culture of surveillance, violence, control and greed. That’s good material for satire, but O’Hara doesn’t seem sure how to shape it. His long-form narrative lacks the precision that sharpened the intertwined sketches in his uproarious 2014 Bootycandy; bravura moments—such as an audience-participation worship ceremony, burnished by Clint Ramos’s exuberant set and costumes—are undermined by heavy-handed messaging and exposition. Like many an allegorical brainchild, the play seems like it was fun to conceive and harder to bring up right.
Playwrights Horizons (Off Broadway). By Robert O’Hara. Directed by O’Hara. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.