Lasting two numbing hours, perhaps only playwright Judson Blake may possibly comprehend this “allegory of modern America.”
In an apartment, we meet Martin, “a young urban professional.” He lives there with his loquacious and beautiful lover, Phyllis. Also in residence is Martin’s gay brother, Terrance. Visiting, is Cindy, Phyllis’ brash sister who is there with her son Vardaman. He is a small boy who is played by an adult actress.
Disrupting this harmony is two menacing government “Meat Inspectors.” Mr. Quibble and Scar. They are given to brusque pronouncements and eventually commandeer the apartment. They are also responsible for bombings that kill women and children. Possessing a rifle, the two sometimes wear “tube hats.” Those are baseball caps connected to plastic tubing.
Periodically bursting onto the scene is a young man in a Mexican sombrero and carrying a black, wooden box with a cylinder attached to it. He is “Major Importance,” a television news reporter with his camera covering this event. He interacts with the others and provides commentary.
There’s a lot of speechifying and violence, but really no discernable plot. It’s all supposed to be ominous and funny. It isn’t. The play’s ending is just as indecipherable as what came before it.
If Mr. Blake had shaped the material into a more coherent form, it might have been provocatively entertaining, but he hasn’t. His direction does skillfully move the eight actors around the stage, but not much else. The lighting design is busy.
Alexandra DelBello’s scenic design is a cool assortment of furnishings, that combined with the white brick walls of the stage, create a neat, futuristic look.
The actors cannot be faulted for overplaying their cartoon-like characters. Their characterizations suit the material. Daniel Cuff as Martin, Andy Nordin as Terrence, Irina Kaplan as Vardaman, Dana Jesberger as Cindy, Harry Bainbridge as Quibble, Tony Del Bono as Mr. Scar, and Robert Lewis as Major Importance are all lively and exhibit talent.
With her rich voice and lithe physicality, the raven-haired and magnetic Jennifer Susi is a delight as Phyllis. Ms. Susi exudes charisma and would be ideal in a leading role in a work of substance.
As deficient as Perversion is, it does have integrity and possibly a profound but very well hidden message. It’s not grating and does have the positive dimension of being a learning experience for the young actors in it. The author states that this play is “extracted from an unusual novel he hopes to soon publish.” When that happens, it could possibly explain things.
Perversion (through April 30, 2017)
The 13th Street Repertory Theater, 50 West 13th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212 868-4444 or visit http://www.13thstreetrep.org
Running time: two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission