The writer and director Sean Graney was in the audience the other night for a performance of his latest play (currently at the Side Project), a half-baked attempt at shock, head games, merciless brutality and off-kilter humor that prompted at least one person in the audience to twist around afterwards and ask of the show’s creator: “Sean, what the hell is wrong with you?” Undeniably talented as a director (and the guiding creative force of The Hypocrites), Graney is less of a proven commodity as a playwright. He’s racked up one certifiable gem, “The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love Suicide”—first staged at the Side Project, as well—and one dud, “Requiem in a Light Aqua Room.” His latest, about a naïve film director and his porno adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” falls in the latter category, though I suppose it’s not a premise without potential. Act One transpires as a comedy of errors—or is that comedy of eros?—in which a group of porno actors struggle to understand why they aren’t stripping and fucking, per usual. They’ve gathered in a seedy basement to rehearse the script. It is a painfully slow, almost boring, turn of events, which is quite a feat when you consider the subject matter. While the director attempts to wring emotion from his actors, they are more concerned with technical matters, such as the logistics of the cum shot: “Do you want me to take it in the face, or what?” Act Two moves at a better clip, though it becomes increasingly disturbing when a menacing interloper—the producer, it turns out, dressed in rabbit suit—alters the storyline to that of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Faster than you can say “Get me out of here,” blood is spilled, anal rape is committed, and a knife dildo is strapped on for an unspeakably torturous act. As upsetting as the climax is, I will say this: It gets the heart racing. But to what end? In the production’s one stroke of genius, Graney has placed the audience on either side of the stage so that during that last, awful scene, you can clearly see the horrified looks on those sitting opposite your vantage point. Now that’s theater. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.