The Inventor, The Escort, The Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
January 6, 2011
Being a freak has been demystified and humanized in this new, ultra-contemporary play by Matt Morillo. It takes place during a tremendous New York snowstorm, like the one we just experienced. The snow keeps the people in two apartments in a Manhattan building together so they can face truths, both pleasant and unpleasant, and generally humorous.
Act I takes place in the apartment of Jeffrey (not his real name), who as it turns out got rich inventing sexual labor-saving devices. An escort called Julia (also not her real name) has been invited over to this place which has giant inflatable palm trees, a tiki bar, and beach chairs all set up for a re-enactment of one of Jeffrey’s fantasies. Julia is wary of men, yet is won over by Jeffrey’s gentlemanly behavior. In a touching recap of their lives, we see why Julia cannot form attachments and why Jeffrey’s lack of confidence has isolated him. However, as Morillo proves to us, these characters are as normal as anyone else. They know what they want and they openly acknowledge their desires. They indulge in moderate Long Island-bashing, but I guess there’s a reason why they live in the city now. Jeffrey’s empathy drives Julia out the door at one point, which is when the upstairs neighbor Karen comes in to borrow a bottle of tequila from Jeffrey. A minute later, Julia returns and we see that whatever was happening before has turned into a date.
Act II takes place upstairs, where the estranged couple Karen and John live. Karen, a talented photographer, had moved out but is back as agreed to see if this relationship has a future. The emphasis in this act is on how outwardly normal people are repressed, unhappy, and not so different from the "freaks" downstairs whom they demean at every opportunity. John enjoys kinky sexual situations as much as Jeffrey. The tension with Karen is over an affair John had, which he claims is over. Conveniently just at that moment the doorbell rings and the other woman, a dancer named Molly, enters. Molly is Karen’s much younger cousin, whom she and John had seen at family barbecues for the last ten years. It is creepy to think of that kind of seduction, and moreso because Karen encouraged John to have an affair in the first place. They fight for the rest of the act, briefly interrupted by Molly’s interpretive dance piece entitled “Heathcare.” After she ends the dance completely nude, John says “I get it. She’s not covered.” Karen leaves. John tries to get with Molly. Karen comes back. Molly leaves and Karen leaves too. John, undeterred, hooks up with yet someone else.
I suppose the contrast between these two lifestyles has some merit. The same compliments which Jeffrey gives to Julia in all sincerity are shown to be hollow when spoken by John to Karen. Jeffrey is, after all, a good person, and his far-out kinky inventions are pretty useful. John doesn’t seem to be doing much good for the world. This play is not a patriarchal fantasy, either. There is a balancing female voice. The program notes “Events of Act 2 were inspired by Maria Micheles’s Sleepover” which was produced at the same theatre in 2007.
Morillo directed the show as well. I congratulate him for making the characters so real. The film Pretty Woman is referenced but this play makes it look like a Disney movie. A distinguished filmmaker as well, Morillo seems to have titled this play as a nod to Peter Greenaway’s film work. David R. Doumeng (Jeffrey) has come a long way and good for him. Jessica Durdock Moreno (Julia) makes a marvelous transformation from closed-off to happy. Emily Campion (Karen) succeeds in showing us why someone would and would not forgive a lying boyfriend. Tom Pilutik (John) has a lot of lies to juggle, and deftly fools everyone for a long time. Maria Rowene (Molly) is the self-actualized dancer with no boundaries, a great counterbalance to all the other characters. Mark Marcante’s sets are beautiful and very New York. Along with Amith A. Chandrashakar’s lighting, it makes you happy to be inside on a snowy night. Gillian Brooke Todd’s choreography admirably salutes as well as lampoons interpretive dance.