PUT IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE POSITION
Anticipating having to review Owen Dunne’s new play Positions, the feeling I had while watching it – knowing the production to have travelled 600 miles to New York City and seeing it performed on a Saturday night to a near-empty house – was similar to that of watching a roach trying to climb out of a toilet bowl: in a way I’m rooting for it to make it, but finally I have to flush.
Leo (Mike O’Neil) and Hilary (Michelle Gagliano) have been married for over a decade and the spark has gone out of their love life. To reignite it Leo suggests having sex in 52 different positions, as outlined in a sex-help book, trying one new position every week for a year. We spend the first act in the couple’s bedroom over the course of that year watching them bicker and squabble as they attempt the feats described in the book.
The couple’s dialogue, although very naturalistic (it has the feel, in fact, of transcribed conversations) lacks any sort of artistry or layers; there’s no subtext, no plot, no theme, and no significant character development. The writing also has no meaningful point of view as to the characters’ motivations. Still, these scenes, competently directed by Steve Bakunas, do have just enough charm and humor to make the first act breeze by; Ms. Gagliano’s grounded and entertaining performance serves well in aid of this.
In the second act however, when Leo leaves the familiar confines of his wife and bedroom for a motel room and a hooker named Cassandra (Anna Stromberg), Positions becomes a grating, unwatchable mess. The plot, what there is of it, turns ludicrous; ideas and themes are dropped as soon as they’re introduced; and the personage of Cassandra, an emotionally-balanced, intelligent, erudite, wise, street-walking hooker-saint, is unbelievable to say the least. The capable Ms. Stromberg delivers an energetic performance but her character is so poorly conceived that her efforts are, sadly, for naught.
Mr. Bakunas’ three very literal sets – bedroom, motel room, and supermarket aisle – are a bit “square” but serviceable, if one can forgive the motelesque look of Leo and Hilary’s bedroom, with its generic, faded, framed landscape prints, hanging on 70’s-style wall-board walls. Mr. Bakunas has an impressive array of skills – besides directing the show and designing the performance spaces he also did the lighting, sound, and wrote and performed all the music. I would be curious to see how he handles a workable piece of material.
photos by B. Candu
The Red Barn Studio at Roy Arias Studio Theater in New York City
scheduled to end on October 21, 2012
for tickets, call (212) 957-8358 or visit http://redbarnstudiotheatre.com/