Spanked!

Never has the line between performance and therapy been so thoroughly eradicated as in this exploration of spanking as a function both disciplinary and erotic. Aaron Hartzler and Ian MacKinnon, who seem to be a lovely young couple, have decided that there is nothing, but nothing, too intimate when it comes to the spiritually tempering process of working through childhood issues in public. Mind you, I'm with these boys 100 percent when it comes to the sheer barbarity of adults beating kids on the ass while assuring the wailing tots that the spanking is only being administered out of love. The line they draw from the inadvertent thrill of having nether nerves stimulated in childhood to the pleasures to be derived from naughty adult recreations is a clear and intriguing one.

But honestly, there's only so much to which an audience should be subjected without sedation. The digressions are unending, so much so that at just under 90 minutes the show feels a good 20 minutes too long. By the end, when the lads are bathing each other in phosphorescent goo and psychobabble, you wish director Jacob Titus had stepped in and said, "Enough." Many interesting points are made, but they're drowned in the performers' sheer love of listening to themselves talk about themselves.

The duo is like a boy band split in two: Aaron is the cute one, Ian is the spirited one (the bad boy and the good dancer are presumably developing their vehicle elsewhere). Aaron--normally I'd refer to them by surname, but, because I know more about them than I know about friends of decades' standing, that feels a bit precious--serves as the anchor primarily by virtue of demeanor. While he's able to rise to breathtaking challenges (and being the erotic spanking model butt is but the least of them), he often tends to be reading his lines off the back of his forehead. Ian, on the other hand, is so intense that he is prone to extending his clenched fists backwards on hyperextended arms, leaning forward, and dancing about as he screams his hurt, his pain, his needs, his desires, his despair. It's one of the few times I've wanted to spit out the line, "Would you light somewhere?"

The heart of this production is marvelous, but the performers treat the audience as if we're devoid of memory and imagination. Themes don't need to be dissipated and wallowed in, and when it comes to the finer points of ass play, trust me, I don't need to see the rosy treasure to get the point, particularly when we haven't even been formally introduced.