Review: HotelMotel

Two plays are staged in an evocatively seedy hotel room.

  • Photograph: Monica Simoes

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

    BREAST DEFENSE Lemp, top, forces James Kautz to feel her bosom.

  • Photograph: Monica Simoes

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

  • Photograph: Monica Simoes

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

  • Photograph: Monica Simoes

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

  • Photograph: Monica Simoes

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

    The Amoralists' HotelMotel

Photograph: Monica Simoes

The Amoralists' HotelMotel

BREAST DEFENSE Lemp, top, forces James Kautz to feel her bosom.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

The rollicking Amoralists collective wears rebellion on its sleeve—or it would if the ensemble's sleeves (and pants) were not so regularly discarded. The Amoralists break taboos, nudity-related ones first, so in the lengthy, claustrophobically staged double bill HotelMotel, actors undress practically in our laps. The uneven program, composed of company playwright Derek Ahonen's couples-therapy melodrama Pink Knees on White Skin and a revival of Adam Rapp's eerie Animals and Plants, finds that proximity amplifies everything—and not always happily. Ahonen's piece suffers from the enforced close-up, but Rapp's work thrives in a hothouse atmosphere, and despite longueurs, the cheek-by-jowl staging enriches the playwright's version of the American Uncanny.

Twenty audience members gather around a bed in a tiny bordello-red hotel room. In Pink Knees, a sex therapist (Sarah Lemp) counsels couples while—of course—revealing her own dysfunction. This play smokes without burning: Directed sex play and hectic confessionals don't raise a flicker of theatrical lust. Ahonen, while frequently dazzling, may be investigating nonfarce structure, but trust that this is the early part of that learning curve. Rapp, on the other hand, can do Tarantino-meets-Pinter in his sleep. Two addled drug runners (Matthew Pilieci and William Apps) hang out in a motel room, talking Rappian prose at each other and finding reasons to undress. Outside, snow falls and violence gathers. The 2001 text feels like young writing (the requisite mystery girl is called Cassandra, so that's a hint), but Pilieci seems thrilled to find a lyric maximalism so suited to his style—a sort of straight-guy camp. The best touch, though, is the Gershwin Hotel itself. Swathed in red curtains, with taxidermied critters watching from the walls, the room exhales a delicious Lynchian horror.

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Gershwin Hotel. Written and directed by Derek Ahonen and Adam Rapp. With ensemble cast. 3hrs 45mins. One intermission. See complete event information.