Our debut production:
THE FOREPLAY PLAY
A new play by Mariah MacCarthy
Directed by Leta Tremblay
A straight couple comes to a lesbian couple’s apartment for dinner, drinks, and a foursome. Things do not go as planned.
Starring Lindsey Austen, Nic Grelli*, Diana Oh, and Parker Leventer*
A site-specific production at an apartment in Williamsburg
Thursdays-Sundays at 8pm, April 19-May 6, 2012
*indicates member of Actors’ Equity Association
Thoughtfully question[s] the boundaries of love and possessiveness in relationships…MacCarthy does a nice job of unearthing the awkward pairings of her characters, and finding the emotional sweet spot that pushes each one to the brink…and she gives each of the four characters their due in this respect. She’s imbued her dialogue with a nice conversational tone, which is paced nicely by director Leta Tremblay, that works well for the informal, environmental apartment setting. It is a credit to her writing and her cast’s ease with its tone and voice that there are many moments in the play that have such a nice natural humor and spontaneity to them that it’s hard to tell if the actors are ad-libbing or if it’s actually scripted.
The four characters teeter back and forth between clashing and coming together extremely well, revealing each others’ strengths and their breaking points…Nic Grelli’s soft-spoken Kyle is a lovely blend of a quiet fun-loving charisma and deep vulnerability and insecurity, while Lindsey Austen as Ani walks a fine line between being the most enthusiastic about the evening while being the most uptight. Her hilarious but sad descent through the evening is impressive and heart-wrenching. Diana Oh plays her role (Isabel) as the consummate good host, trying to keep the warring personalities together, while letting on that—just under the surface—she may be the most unstable of them all. And Parker Leventer does a nice job of keeping Kelly human and sympathetic…
The Foreplay Play is a fun, awkward ride that really seems to beg the question, “How open can a committed relationship really be?“ Not only does it have a amusing time in debunking the “magical experience” of group sex, but it points out that, try as we might, people can’t help that we are a jealous, flawed species. It’s what makes us human.
After a series of awkward missteps, false starts, jumping the gun (but not without a few hot hot, drrrrrty, breathtaking, throw-you-up-against-the-wall, take-you-right-now-on-the-kitchen-counter moments) Kyle, the sole male of the intended foursome is strumming a guitar and the quartet has just finished a rousing rendition of Springteen’s Hungry Heart.… “Hungry Heart” is a beautiful moment – each character singing with completely different motivation: some with actual hunger in their heart, some with nothing more than Springsteen Joy, and others with the taste of a memory, perhaps…
What The Foreplay Play illustrates and illuminates beautifully is that bringing the fantasy (again, of anything, but specifically group sex) into the real world is a daunting process…On display this evening for all of us (and for each other) to see are each character’s most charming qualities, their most annoying habits, their sexiest urges, their most awkward discomfort…The cast is strong, each delivering a nuanced performance which gives you an opportunity to side with them or against them depending on the flow of the evening. Under Leta Tremblay’s fine direction the night is hyper-real…
Tremblay also deftly balances all the craziness (Twister! Knife play! Costumes and fake accents! Spin the bottle!) with a solid anchor of gravitas…MacCarthy aims for – and delivers – a night of questions rather than answers. A night of seeking rather than finding, and a night which flips over the rocks to explore the grime underneath. While no one gets very naked, emotionally the cast strips bare and the four individuals share intimacies on a level much deeper than the simple exchanging of bodily fluids. Ultimately sex is besides the point. MacCarthy, in her Playwright’s Note, admits that the play “ends up being a celebration of love, not sex”.
CAPS LOCK THEATRE, on their website, states, “We like plays where people are at both their worst and their best; where people screw each other–or themselves–over, and have to find a way to deal with it; where people’s hearts hurt, or open, or blossom.” I’d say that The Foreplay Play does all of this – and perfectly.
The Foreplay Play’s apartment setting, playful honest dialogue, and naturalistic acting makes this theater experience so realistic that you find yourself questioning if you’re really watching a play, or just spying on your cooler-than-you neighbors. Engaging and uniquely voyeuristic, if you’re lucky enough to see it you’ll be talking about it for years to come.
…Witnessing Mariah MacCarthy’s finely woven lusty play The Foreplay Play in a hip Williamsburg apartment will top [the] list of uniquely New York things you did when you were cool…The setting makes the audience so much a part of the action that it challenges them to question their reality…
The strong and complex characters and relationships make Foreplay not your typical web of love triangles. Surprisingly true to life, these young characters are endearing and caring at some moments, and selfish and immature at others…Each character is admirable in their own way, and this empathetic connection makes the jaw dropping moments of trust betrayals and power reversals all the more dramatic, leaving you bug eyed and a little scared for what will happen next.
Parker Leventer excellently executes mind games and blunt accusations as Isabel’s lover Kelly, and Diana’s Oh’s Isabel has a secretive nature and steamy allure that’s hard to take your eyes off of. Lindsey Austen plays such an adorable and sweet Anika you almost excuse her selfishness and lack of consideration for her boyfriend, Kyle. Nic Grelli‘s Kyle, who seems like a 3rd (4th?) wheel at the top of the story, slowly evolves into the most dynamic character onstage…To top it all off, director Leta Tremblay molds each scene so realistically, it’s makes you forget these actors aren’t their characters in real life. It feels that real.
One of the most admirable parts of MacCarthy’s Foreplay Play is what it downplays — sexuality. The Foreplay Play isn’t really about sex, it’s about relationships. One of those relationships happens to be a gay relationship, but that doesn’t suddenly make Foreplay a queer play — it’s a human play. MacCarthy’s characters transcend gender and stereotypes and never gets preachy about queer culture. They are written already comfortable with themselves in that aspect, and performed with the expectation that the audience doesn’t need a PSA about love and lust having no boundaries. Foreplay skips that, and just lets the characters dive right into messing up each others’ lives. Respect.
Gives new meaning to the word ‘realism’…The setup is intriguing and seeing the shifting alliances between the four characters provides some fun. MacCarthy includes simple yet effective comedy…Diana Oh’s portrayal of Izzie is fascinatingly authentic. How crazy that witnessing an actor in a play behave like a real person can be breathtaking…Oh [has a] radiant ability to crack under pressure (she screams into a pillow) and then act natural as another character enters. She puts on a grand façade of composure without ever over-doing it. Oh allows the circumstances of the play to effect her character gradually and convincingly…Nic Grelli brings a sweet charm to Kyle…Grelli is a master downplayer and brings a way different energy to the room than the women. There’s also some great sexual tension between Izzie and Kyle. When they’re on stage by themselves, they engage each other and the audience lucratively…There’s a sensational unpredictability for both the characters and the audience during a game of Spin the Bottle…A celebration of chaos.”
“I write about sex because whenever sex becomes a possibility, so does heartbreak.”
“Just do it. Just do your play in an apartment. Why wouldn’t you? So many plays are set in apartments, there’s got to be at *least* one that you’re considering producing, right? So why would you spend the money to rent a space and build a set that *looks* like an apartment, when you could just use a real apartment?”
–Mariah MacCarthy on doing The Foreplay Play in a real apartment: guest blog on New York Theatre Review
“When it gets down to the nitty gritty, these couple fear real liberation, they still want possession of their partners, they still want a new kind of monogamy, and in the end the two things are simply incompatible.”
–Sean Williams of Gideon Productions on sex in indie theatre: “I Need A Baby”
Photos by Kacey Anisa