Thank goodness for John Perrin Flynn and the hearty band of true theatre folks at The Rogue Machine Theatre who are unafraid to move the envelope .. sometimes from within and sometimes outside, in harness, to drag it along, kicking and screaming. Whether "bled for the household truth," a play by ruth fowler (note the lower case?), may fall within or without the envelope of dramaturgy is a question that seeing the play may answer. I'm guessing that it's still inside and doing its best to make a comment that is rather cloudy but has moments of clarity. We are now in the age of 'pussy grabbing.'
Program notes tell us that playwright fowler saw an ad on Craigs List that prompted the creation if her idea for this play. Deliberately leading us out of the comfort zone is accomplished in spades, though mostly gratuitously. Director CAMERON WATSON (note the caps) is well known for 'creative' takes on the shows he directs. Most recently for me, was his use of full frontal male nudity in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Antaeus. In that play, Brick gratuitously displays himself for no apparent reason.
|Alexandra Hellquist and Benjamin Burdick|
Photo Credit John Perrin Flynn
In fowler's play, inappropriate sexual behavior is high on the list of what happens when the premise that may underlie the whole idea is framed around an abandoned child; when sexual boundaries are murky; when respect and love are waiting somewhere just out of our grasp.
Lonely and possibly 'on the spectrum' we meet Keith (Benjamin Burdick), a successful liar who works too much and because of his eclectic proclivity for watching porn on his computer and his need for companionship (even though he declares he has lots of friends), advertises for a live in woman. His inability to touch or be touched introduces us to the brassy Pen (Alexandra Hellquist) who virtually forces herself on Keith to occupy his extra room with private bath and all she has to do is be there. Mostly.
Playwright fowler is not Edward Albee. That bar is one that is way too high for most writers to approach. However, the conflicts that arise with the duplicitous Pen, breaking a 'rule' (no male visitors!) by having studly Billy (Nathaniel Meek) over for a bit of telly and titillation that gets out of hand with a condom absent rape is just the beginning. Billy exits, leaving her ragged on the floor with an abrupt "I've gotta go." This leads Pen to 'douch' with a left over slice of pizza.
The dance of fowler's play disappoints somewhat with what at first light is a gorgeous New York City high rise apartment by accomplished scenic designer, John Iacovelli: Irving Place between 18th and 19th. Pen's and Keith's rooms are stage right and left respectively, fully furnished and luxuriously appointed with full windows obscured by mini-blinds. Iffy sight lines and the rooms' interiors well obscured is a sad truth here. A program caveat revealing that this play includes 'nudity' puts us on notice, but there are no shades of Oh, Calcutta. Pen is an attractively thin Brit (Manchester, England, England, across the Atlantic Sea) who occasionally appears in bra and panties. Her Manchester accent charms, but makes understanding most of her dialogue difficult at best, though her "shits" and "fucks" are impossible to ignore.
If rape, masturbation, something to do with the scent of previously worn panties, masturbation, again... and fondling of an unconscious woman are stepping stones to 'love,' then "bled for the household truth" has a long way to go for any kind of honesty, though the effort may be appreciated. Every single character is a liar and in one way or another, with the exception of a short encounter with Monica (Rachel Brunner) who has a brief party with Billy and Pen. Pen overdoses on cocaine. When Pen passes out, Monica has the good sense to reject Billy's advances and hit the trail.
Program notes declare that it is the play's intention to take the audience out of our comfort zone. The discomfort of Mr. Burdick's waffling behavior between his unusual shyness butted up against outbursts of rage for a broken rule and his love and disgust for his mother who abandoned him as a child, contrasts with the difficulty in understanding Ms Hellquist's Manchester accent. The kernels of 'truth' here may be only beginning to pop as the curtain falls on the final scene.
The World Premiere of
bled for the household truth
a play by ruth fowler
Rogue Machine Theatre
1089 N Oxford Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90029Opened November 18, 2017
Plays at 8:30 pm on Saturdays & Mondays 3:00pm on Sundays
Closes December 18, 2017
Tickets and information:
855 585 5185