It is probably safe to say that the only thing playwrights enjoy more than writing about sex is the act itself. A true statement for every kind of writer, really, but it’s all so much spicier in the performance world, isn’t it? Writing a novel, after all, is solitary, introspective, often a pinnacle in the art of self-abuse. A play is collaborative, exhibitive, and has a whole culture of fucking as its subtle perfume. Theater can be masturbatory, sure, but at least it’s a circle jerk. And that’s to say nothing of the voyeu…I mean the audience. Conflict, sweat, hot lights, sexy French words like ingénue, and it’s all right there. You see the actor playing Oedipus and the actor playing his wife-mother. You see Othello atop his doomed Desdemona in her bridal bed. You wonder about the writer who’s putting these people through this. You ponder the director who’s blocking the scene. You imagine things about the actors who are wrestling each other. Walk around any university drama department for a week, and you realize that the question is never “Will They Or Won’t They” but always “Are They Or Aren’t They…And If Not, When?”
I don’t have to pique your interest; you’re already interested. It’s sex. And for the next week at The Brick in Williamsburg, well, it’s a F!CK FEST.
Apologies in advance: the puns are coming. What Williamsburg’s most venerable experimental theater is and has been trying to do for the past month is embrace the carnal, penetrating into kinks and psyches of all tastes, all types. A quick glance at the lineup titillates with just a few gentle globules of description: “stoner strap-on bedside manner”, “Magic Sex Goddess,” “…a fetish party when feminist existentialist…,” “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? for the Youtube generation.” There are snapshots of queer life in NYC, one-woman shows, and sexy operas where the eye candy and condoms are free. There’s an O’Neill Finalist (Singles In Agriculture) and something called Krapps Last Sex Tape, which I doubt will leave anyone smiling by the end, but does demand an answer for a question you never thought you’d ask: was Beckett a dom or a sub?
The show this reviewer saw was Fish-Girl, written by co-stars Siouxsie Q & Sean Andries. Q is the creator and host of The WhoreCast, a podcast that gives voice to the stories of American sex workers, and a sex worker herself. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for: the 55-minute play is about a quasi-fantastical mermaid who is on display at a freak show, and the naïve tourist who falls in love with her. As it turns out, the show is as whimsical as its description. Q has a lovely singing voice (with solid songs, backed by a ukulele that she strums) and a charming stage presence to match the charm she exhibits on her intelligent and informative podcast. Andries is totally believable as the kid who tries to save her from her life, but there’s a lot packed into this one-act, and it’s in dire need of a third performer to play the mermaid’s abusive “manager,” embodied as is by lighting, voice-over (Andries doing Batman), and (admittedly cool-looking) shadowplay. The extra performer could have given the role the oomph a disembodied voice couldn’t, and anyways the play (and festival) is about bodies: the deterioration of them, the buying of them, the looking at them, the needing of them, the needing of something more than them. Far from being hot under the sheets, the show was more like an ocean spray: light and pleasant, dissipating quickly.
Do the rest of the shows earn your post-coital smoke? You’ll have to decide on your own. Still, they’ll probably beat your glancing-not-peeping into the neighbor’s apartment window. At least these performers know you’re there. After curtain call, Q thanked the small audience for attending, and—brightly, proudly—stated that “This show got paid for with a lot of sex work.” It’s an admission that you’re not likely to hear after a curtain call on the Great White Way, when they inevitably use some famous actor to hustle you for more dough. It’s more honest than that, which has a worth all its own. You want to know more about it? Of course you do. Why? Because you’re a fucking caveman. Just like the rest of us.
Fish-Girl through Sunday, June 28
Festival through Friday July 3