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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 5 years ago

Theater review: "Freak"

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Raw honesty and gutsy insight dominate this Urbanite Theatre production
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

As Woody Allen once said, “Sex is the most fun you can have without laughing.” But if there’s a way to mess up a good thing, the human race will find it. Sex has its dark side, and Anna Jordan is interested in exploring it. She did it before, in “Chicken Shop,” and she does it again in “Freak”—a two-hander play and the Urbanite Theatre’s latest production.

It’s all about sex, folks. Get a babysitter. You have been warned.

But don’t be scared off. Aside from a changed blouse or two, there’s no physical nudity. The nakedness is merely psychological. Let’s start with the acting.

Summer Dawn Wallace's portrayal of Georgie is shattering — in the literal sense. Her character turns 30 and hits an identity crisis when her boyfriend dumps her. She quits her dead-end job and finds empowerment in sex, drugs and stripping. Temporarily.

Then Georgie takes on a freelance assignment with a bachelor party. The “no touch” rule doesn’t apply at the guy’s house. Dancing becomes touch becomes orgy becomes rape. And that’s when Georgie falls apart.

In another raw, honest performance, Ellie McCaw’s 15-year-old Leah is on the verge of sexual awakening. Thanks to the Internet, Leah has a good idea what she’ll wake to, and she practices the appropriate expressions. The reality of sex is no horror show, but it’s no romantic movie either. Her boyfriend’s pal walks in on her after one tryst. Leah’s still putting her top on. The two guys grab her top and play keep-away.

Director V. Craig Heidenreich pulls you into this peep show of the mind. Invisibility is his directing style — the illusion that there’s no director at all. That’s perfect for this play, which turns you into a voyeur of two women’s naked, shameful thoughts. The playwright wants to make you squirm. The characters must feel totally real and exposed to make that happen. One hint of fakery would ruin it. But Heidenreich keeps it real.

Jordan matches her edgy material with edgy form. The play’s narrative unfolds in surreal counterpoint. When they’re not bumping and grinding to cheesy pop tunes, the two women speak alternating monologues, sharing dark secrets like they’re talking to an invisible father confessor.

Their words veer from latter-day beat poetry to the rhythms of contemporary speech. The two narratives usually complement each other, though occasionally they feel like rude interruptions. When the two stories finally converge, it feels like a quick way to end the play. But that’s the only false note in an evening of unvarnished, sometimes ugly truth.

It’s all about sex. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Jordan is a hip, 21st century feminist, but she might as well be a traditional moralist. “Freak” is to sex what “The Lost Weekend” is to drinking. After seeing this play, chastity starts to seem like a very good idea. At least if you’re a woman.

But don’t get the wrong impression. There’s some brutal stuff here, and plenty of snarky humor and fine-tuned insights, as well. A gutsy play demands a gutsy audience. “Freak” demolishes barriers, takes risk and takes you to a new place. If that’s your cup of tea, this is the show for you.

 

IF YOU GO

“Freak” runs through Nov. 15, at Urbanite Theatre, 1487 Second St., Sarasota. Call 321-1397 or visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.

 

 

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