Smiley - How about some emotional pornography?
nytheatre.com review by Heather McAllister
August 18, 2011
In a new age empowerment workshop in present-day Jerusalem, a nutty yet poignant, lonely yet ok-with-that single mother holds a class purportedly to help people find their “I.D.” through their name, and most importantly, to help them “connect.” Although about human connection, the story is told through a series of monologues, some long, some very long, and although there are some lovely, brilliant and funny moments, sadly there is a decided lack of connection.
The group leader/facilitator “Anna,” played by the lovely Natalie Fainstein, leads a strange group—a lonely online dominatrix (Efrat Arnon), a needy party boy-toy (Ori Laizerovich), and a raging loony (Itzik Golan)—in her Empowerment/Connection workshop. Beginning by limbering up her body and voice, grunting and leaping about like a sexy gorilla, Fainstein is immediately in everyone’s face, cast and audience alike. Gleefully, she informs us how we all will be required to answer her questions. “Oh, no!” I inwardly grimace. “Not audience participation! I HATE audience participation.” And yet, within the first few minutes, Fainstein completely won me and the whole audience over. Charmingly self effacing, her vulnerable open quality is thoroughly enjoyable. Fainstein asks her questions of the audience, then spins and twists every answer to great comic effect, finding connections in the strangest places. She is delightful. Her interaction with the audience and animal interpretive dances are the highlights of the piece.
The rest of the play is disconnected, which is the author’s theme—how we all are desperately lonely and yet yearning for acceptance and connection. One by one the members of Anna’s class embark on monologues sharing details of their freaky, false and foul love lives, searching for approval by purging their vomitous pasts. The cast is fearless, but I didn’t see the point of their sad and twisted tales. What do we learn from their angry, crazy, lonely sadism? That love is terrible? That connection is impossible? I don’t want to live in that world. I want the characters to find their way out, but no exit exists for them.
A final monologue is told by the dominatrix, as a late night radio host, with lovely cool lighting by Erez Shvarzbaum. Trying again in a different format to connect, she still is unsuccessful. After a long night accompanying these characters through their dark tales, frankly, it was kind of a bummer. The play and characters are not without merit, they are indeed the freakier versions of you and me, and ultimately I wanted a little kindness for them.