Trap Door Theatre presents
At 1655 W. Cortland Avenue
Written by Ken Prestininzi
Directed by Kate Hendrickson
Thru June 26th
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes included a ten minute delayed start and intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
I hated this company's last production, MINNA. Trying again to get in to the Trap Door, I slip through the passageway for CHASTE. Didn't hate it! Alright, that's a start. Trap Door Theatre presents CHASTE, a world premiere play by the collaborative duo, Playwright Ken Prestininzi and Director Kate Hendrickson. In 1882, three intellectual writers formed a unique alliance. Lou Salome, 21 year old virginal girl, suggested living in an academic commune to 40 year old philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Paul Ree. The cerebral ménage a trios was to be a catalyst to advanced thinking and expression. CHASTE imagines the sexless brain trust actually happening. It's the ultimate lust triangle when creative minds share a roof but not a bed. In theory, by eliminating sex from the equation, an artist is free to produce pieces of great significance. CHASTE illustrates the reality of celibate artistry as horny madness. Nobody in the house is producing anything of great significance but an unsatisfied erection. CHASTE exploits the absurd lunacy of libido over intellect.
'Two things in life - joy and pain. And we went to look for them in a whorehouse.' Antonio Brunetti (NeNe Friedrich Nietzsche) is the sexually frustrated genius. With eyes bulging and wild gestures, Brunetti masterfully portrays writers block as woody. Sarah Tolan Mee (Lulu Salome) starts a little stiff in her dialogue but quickly becomes the energetic, shiny-faced, narcissist. Unaffected by the sexual fatality in motion, Mee is singing beautifully around the house in her willful obtuseness. John Kahara (Paul Ree) is perfect as the peacemaker. Kahara is a man in love, who agrees to do anything to keep the household harmony intact. The threesome gets a gawker. It becomes foreplay with Ne-Ne's obsessive sister suspecting everyone's getting their 'freak on.' Tiffany Ross (Elisabeth Nietzsche) plays the prim sourpussed sister brilliantly. Ross is especially hilarious when deviating from the severity of her character to crawl on the floor or screech out her brother's name. In the sexually charged commune, Ross conducts herself like a closeted incest fan.
Under the direction of Hendrickson, the comedic moments are actualized with physical and verbal exaggeration. Ironically, a trap door entrance and exit is an ongoing amusement. The collaborative efforts of Hendrickson and Prestininzi have been over fifteen years in the making.
The dream sequences are imaginative drunk haze meets sleepy illusion. CHASTE is a good addition to the H&P portfolio. The story is an interesting perspective of a 'what if' in history moment. The first act is crisp and fluid. The second act drags with the banality of 'no means no' lackluster chemistry. In Prestinizi's own CHASTE words, 'this is the best we can do. Want a new best.'
In theory, I believe by eliminating sex from the equation, artists are free to produce pieces of great significance. In reality, my platonic intellectual partner is often distracted from our creative collaborative efforts... not by me, but by any tits and ass within a six block radius!
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Trap Door Theatre is literally surrounded by Jane's Restaurant, 1655 W. Cortland. My last experience at Jane's was pretty tasty so I go for the repeat. The menu is heavy vegetarian influence with interesting combinations of flavors. On a solo mission tonight, I'm contemplating indulging in my ideal meal, wine and cheese. The bartender is helpful in describing the appetizer option and seals the deal by showing me the container for leftovers.
I love a container that is purse worthy. I order the cheese plate. It arrives bountiful and beautiful. Four cheeses; gouda, manchego, port salut, blue d'auvergne with guava paste, curried apples, black ink, candied nuts and toast. WOW! It's crazy delicious! I immediately text the man in charge of my eulogy to pre-order this combo for my last meal on earth. The best part from this chaste meal is cheeses to go!