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The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
The Amoralists is a theater company that claims not to be "concerned with the principals of right or wrong, good or bad," an attitude that could endanger the success of its productions. And yet, despite being strong on manifesto, its current offering manages to entertain, educate, and titillate.
Written and directed by company member Derek Ahonen, the story centers on a polysexual "urban tribe" of two men, Billy (James Kautz) and Wyatt (Matthew Pilieci), and two women, Dawn (Helena Lee) and Dear (Sara Fraunfelder), as they struggle to find their place in the world. This is a collective theatre experience, and it all starts as the audience descends into a basement infused with the scent of patchouli and encounters a messy apartment (designed by Pilieci) strewn with liquor bottles and decorated with 1960s rock posters and psychedelic paraphernalia. It would appear to be set during the Summer of Love, until someone answers a cell phone. No, this neo-hippie enclave is located in NYC's present-day Lower East Side, where the foursome manages a vegan restaurant in exchange for free room and board. They're scantily clad, quick to pounce on one another for sex (regardless of gender), and they encourage each other's rages, lovemaking, and vices. The naturalistic style of acting comes easily to the pack: Pilieci is an incredible jumble of manic energy, frightening and fascinating to watch; Kautz is sexy and brooding; Lee personifies pixie innocence; and Fraunfelder unexpectedly grows to become a warm, motherly force.
Like his characters, however, Ahonen becomes a bit too self-indulgent, crafting three acts (including two intermissions) and extending the story for far too long. What begins as a powerful and energetic experience drags into overtime and diminishes the many smart and profound moments spread throughout. If he were to trim some of the more pedantic dialogue—in particular, Act 2's preachy "bed-in" sequence—and convoluted exposition, he'd have a complex and powerful creation on his hands.
Presented by the Amoralists
at Performance Space 122, 150 First Ave., NYC.
June 5–28 and July 30–Aug. 23. Mon., Thu.–Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.
(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.ps122.org.
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