Rites Of Privacy
nytheatre.com review by Avery Pearson
August 14, 2010
In Rites of Privacy, chameleon David Rhodes takes his audience on an exquisite uncharted journey through the lives of five diverse characters and one's personal privacy. By examining the hearts and minds of these anguished characters we learn to examine our own societal preoccupations. Rites of Privacy is about those private secrets that we all have, yet never share. With precision and style, Rhodes transforms himself in front of our eyes—puts on his makeup, and quite literally slips into the skin of his self-designed and quite authentic costumes. It is clear that Rhodes has made every effort to ensure that his characters are at home in their bodies. This is an integral and revelatory notion that the play put forward: When can we be ourselves? Why aren't we more in touch with who we are?
Rhodes enters the stage with a veteran's venerable focus and proceeds to introduce himself. As the play's fulcrum, he dresses into each role and becomes the character. Throughout our stay, we meet a shaky Georgian pageant queen, a New Hampshire displaced Jew—Seamus Ben Avram, an emergency room doctor with a stomach curdling emergency, and a Belgian party boy. However, it was the chilling story of an aging refugee from Nazi Germany that left the audience in tears and forlorn at the remembrance of the catastrophe that was the Holocaust. To take a moment, Rhodes's interpretation of this character is specific, honest, and true to the spirit of Holocaust survivors. It is clear that Rhodes understands the condition of this refugee and is the character, rather than playing the obvious dialect and dreary disposition. Rhodes supercedes the obvious and embodies the energy and spirit of this soul.
In between each character, Rhodes opens up to the audience and tells stories of his childhood fascination with dressing up in women's clothing and playing make-believe with his best friend. We learn about his psychoanalytic professional parents who are nice in public but not so nice in private. Rhodes professes his love of playing characters and the challenges he faced in coming out of the closet. But the most miraculous moment of these collected stories occurs at the end of the play when Rhodes exposes a massive privacy in his own life. Rhodes is brilliant at this turn, leaving the audience wanting way more of this moment.
With the steady-handed direction of Charles Loffredo and intriguing thematic projection show by Greg Emetaz, we are aware that we are in a theatre and that's good! A few dance numbers trailed a little too long, but it was interesting to see Rhodes use these as a tool to wind in and out of characters.
The essence of Rites of Privacy is the secrets that we hold on to, never letting them go to the outside world. Though the characters in Privacy are not directly interrelated (other than that they each have private secrets and most are Jewish), we enjoy Rhodes's characterizations and generous spirit in divulging his personal truths.