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Theater review by Adam Feldman. Flea Theater (Off-Off Broadway). By Tommy Smith. Dir. Courtney Ulrich. With ensemble cast. 55mins. No intermission.
As its double-edged title implies, Tommy Smith’s incendiary White Hot limns the paradoxical thrill of self-erasure. The most straightforward of its four characters, in this regard at least, is Sis (the excellent Jamie Bock), a bleary burnout who treats her anomie with continual escapes into extremity: wild sex, harsh violence, massive quantities of drugs. In the play’s opening scene, she tells her sister, Lil (Janice Amaya), of a brief encounter with a well-hung quasi-Slavic stranger named Grig (Sean McIntyre): “He flips me over and pushes it up my ass and later I’m shitting blood but it’s nice, you know? Tender. These bright red swirls of blood clouding the bowl cause that’s like, that’s love, you know?” But Sis’s unbroken quest for damage is ultimately just a different kind of monotony. White, after all, is what you get when you pool every color of light.
Smith’s writing runs a related risk as it dives headlong into shock. (Admirers of Sarah Kane and Thomas Bradshaw will feel right at home.) But the playwright doesn’t just wallow in his characters’ muck; he barbs it with comedy and social critique, and his dialogue has brass on its knuckles. Courtney Ulrich’s production—which has a strong cast drawn from the Flea’s Bats troupe, including Bradley Anderson as Lil’s controlling husband—takes a minimalist approach to set design and a maximalist one to pace; the script is delivered at His Girl Friday speed, accenting the taut artifice of Smith’s language at the occasional expense of dramatic tension. But White Hot brands Smith forcefully as a talent to watch and to stomach.—Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam