nytheatre.com review by Andrew Henkes
More than just the promised "bibles, belts and bikini briefs,"
Spanked! is a heartfelt and witty autobiographical account of how
actors Aaron Hartzler and Ian MacKinnon came to sort through the pain of
their relationships with their fathers. The play opens with the
biographical stories of their fathers revealed through props, slides,
and hilarious commentary. The pace at the beginning is strong, and I was
immediately impressed by the intelligent language of the piece. One
especially entertaining bit considers the almost hypnotic effect that
underwear models have on young gay men’s psyches.
August 15, 2002
Yet, the exploration turns dark. In contrast to the advertising which focuses on the sexual and comic notes, the show is mostly an exorcism of the paternal abuse which so significantly impacted each of the actors. The title doesn’t refer just to the sexual variety of spanking—the show is partially a dramatic essay on the dangers and consequences of spanking children. With added flourishes of popular music and sexually charged moments, Ian and Aaron also examine fathers who are unable to freely express their love, and the horrible shame felt by a gay child as he realizes that what he feels in his heart is considered wrong. As much as the actors are helping themselves, they are also trying to help the audience members deal with any of the shame they may be carrying within themselves.
Not to let the audience feel cheated, they do make the time to include a fascinating demonstration of a sexual spanking, and the show does have plenty of nudity and sexy underwear.
Clinical at some moments, and intensely sexual at others, the final part of the show gives the audience a touching and intimate view of their relationship. Still, by its finish, I felt that the show has lost some of its vibrancy after the emotional intensity that carried me through the first hour began to subside. Nonetheless, the show was a highly moving and enjoyable performance which left me asking good questions.