Presented by Bat Theatre Company at The Flea Theater, 41 White St., NYC, May 3-26.
The dramatic set-up is simple—two young women anticipate the arrival of a pair of men for a night of decadent pleasure. The technical set-up is simpler still—four actors plus a narrator stand at podiums and act out the script. But "Ajax (por nobody)" by playwright Alice Tuan is anything but simple; in fact, it is a very complex glimpse into the emotional psyche of modern males and females.
The foursome waste no time in getting down to business—seducing one another, switching partners, even employing a variety of household and other items in their escapades (everything from cocktail wieners and cash to a stolen American Music Award). But their unabashed sexual spree soon leads to distrust and disillusionment. The acting ensemble of Joanie Ellen, Sam Marks, Alfredo Narciso, and Kristin Stewart work in heated harmony to achieve an off-kilter chorus of verbal intercourse. Their precision in both words and movement play up the poetry and heighten the tension. Siobhan Towey is equally excellent as the front-and-center narrator, playing the part of voyeur as she sensuously wraps her tongue around Tuan's taut phrases.
Alice Tuan has delved into deep, unexplored areas of human nature to come up with this shocking work, and the gamble pays off—rarely has a play on the subject of sex been this painfully honest and openly explicit. Director Jim Simpson stages the piece with sharp sights and stunning sounds, making each scene more arresting and erotic than if it had been literally acted out. Kyle Chepulis offers a stark set, and a lighting design that keeps the proceedings from becoming static. Ben Struck adds to the unsettling ambiance with his sound contributions.
Daring, disturbing, and dark-humored, "Ajax (por nobody)" is as eye opening in its presentation as it is intriguing in its exploration of the boundaries of sexual relationships.