Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes - TARRAGON THEATRE


Matthew Edison and Alice Snaden in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes - Photos by Joy von Tiedemann.jpg

A riveting drama, with complex and contrasting comical moments that turns the teacher student relationship inside out and provides post modern strategies that give no easy answers but lots to consider.

Alice Snaden and Matthew Edison are compelling as the blighted 'couple' who traverse a circuitous route through the confusion, the betrayal, and the multi-marriage/family/fidelity discourse that attempts to hold one man's self-fractured life together in the face of his own greatest obsessions - and ensuing lack of self-restraint under the guise of 'love' and all its pithy foibles.

Given the fact that the professor character, played with great angst and power by Matthew Edison, utlilizes on a few occasions, complex almost parodic allusions to literary theory, misidentifying the terms performance and performativity repeatedly, the script is at times a bewildering journey through sexual misconduct in the academy and its many implications. It is hard, at times, to take this professor seriously when he refuses, perhaps unconsciously, to take himself seriously. And that may be what the script gets at in what could be an unconscious, somewhat unrealized way when it comes to the complexity, or lack thereof, or particular academic pursuits..

By imposing a self-reflective/referential structural pose within the script, playwright Hannah Moscovitch gives the character of of Annie a deceptively upper hand element as she navigates her role as young student and aspiring playwright. This allows the drama to unfold in an at times bewildering manner. And yet, this may very well be the dramaturgical genius of Moscovitch as she supplies no simple solutions, or even layered resolution by the end of this emotionally demanding two hander.

Alice Snaden takes on her role as Annie with great emotional layering as the character moves in and out of the very confusion, attraction, desire, and self-doubt that the power imbalance, initiated by her professor, Jon (Edison), creates at the outset. She moves gradually toward a creative solution/anti-solution that affirms and questions the power of art as a simultaneously healing and hurting agent in the lives of the two people involved, and anyone in the audience susceptible to their own forms of identity crises.

Sarah Garton Stanley's carefully measured direction, combined with Michael Gianfrancesco's pulsing blood red set of almost farcical doorways, lending a kind of Georgia de Chirico surrealist angle to the dizzying narrative, creates a powerful setting and blocking landscape that effectively absorbs and alienates an audience and an actor drawn into both participation and observation.
Rife with doubt and self betrayal on the part of the male character, and peppered with both self empowered engagement and necessary retreat by the young woman, Sexual Conduct of the Middle Classes raises many questions through a kaleidoscope of near impossible answers.

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