‘HotelMotel’ – A room with a view?
By Sandi Durell
Yes, a view, up close and personal, into the most intimate details of the fantasies, realities and upheaval of relationships. The Gershwin Hotel is the place, the back room designed as a hotel room providing the highly charged “Pink Knees on Pale Skin,” the first of two plays presented in one evening, with one 20 minute break. It’s a marathon of theatre close to 4 hours. The Amoralist theater company is known for their risk-taking, and social and political commentary, no holds barred, in exploring the human condition.
The unique part is that only 20 people are allowed in at each performance, summoned one by one, and seated in specific areas of the room. We are the voyeurs peeking through the keyhole into Derek Ahonen’s play in experimentation as Dr. Sara Bauer, an extremely impressive Sarah Lemp, who seems ready to explode momentarily as she paces impatiently looking at her watch, while efficiently directing and commanding her clients, portrays a sex therapist with an agenda and numerous hidden secrets. Could there be one under the bed? She is about to counsel two couples who have come to her, each with different marital and sexual problems. Robert and Caroline Wyatt (James Kautz and Vanessa Vache), a seemingly mainstream couple, are consumed with anger and guilt; Theodore and Allison Williams (Bryon Anthony and Anna Stromberg), a more creative and artistic couple, are very much in love but she, sexually repressed, has never achieved orgasm.
There are many moments of fun and laughter in the midst of sadness, rage, resentment and frustration – the connections and disconnections in human relationships.
Dr. Bauer coaches, insists, spews oodles of rhetoric and hidden meanings as she instructs her charges in sexual fantasies, fetishes, masturbation and the how to’s. She is a living, walking, breathing sex manual akin to Dr. Kinsey. She also has a husband, the virile Leroy (Jordan Tisdale) who is like a father to her brain-damaged son Norman (Nick Lawson). But what about her own relationships, fantasies and sexuality?
Mr. Ahonen uses any and all theatricality as he directs this highly talented group of actors; there’s lots of screaming and shouting and much more than pink knees being exposed in this hotel room, under and above the sheets.
The second play “Animals & Plants,” written and directed by Adam Rapp, doesn’t hold the same intensity as “Pink Knees” when two small time drug dealers await orders, while snowed in a motel room in Boone, North Carolina. Dantly (William Apps) spends most of his time lying on the bed bemoaning his inabilities, and the more sure-footed, smooth talking Burris (Matthew Pilieci) spews his dictionary-driven $10 words. They talk about nothing and everything, spending a fair amount of time on discussion about the opposite sex and the fact that the girl at a local shop, Cassandra (Katie Broad), a hippie-type who can also read minds, really likes Dantly. The bear spirit appears, Buck (Brian Mendes), who moves many of the real stuffed animals in the room from place to place, and there’s snow that falls around the perimeter, as basic human nature explodes and evolves into bloody violence. It’s a long and monotonous story that can hopefully find a way to be more efficiently told. No fault of the fine actors that portray the characters.
The sets are cleverly created by Alfred Schatz with costume design by Jessica Pabst.
If you’re skittish about nudity neither of these plays are for you, especially so close-up and in your face. For those who love edgy and creative, which “Pink Knees” especially is, come on down to The Gershwin Hotel on East 27th Street for this unique theatrical event. Thru August 29th