The audience, limited to ten is ushered into a small room and sits on couches or plush wing chairs as a young man sleeps in bed. Eventually, the lights dim, and Tyler awakens and starts speaking. We learn all about this glamour-seeking gay 24-year-old from upstate New York now living in Bushwick. After stints as a busboy in a Chinatown restaurant and as an office worker, he drifted into prostitution which is more remunerative and eventful.
Every night I pack my bag and every morning when I arrive home, I unpack my bag. Simple. Clockwork. And here’s how it goes. Lubricant…Condoms. Always. This is a given. I’ll only do bareback if I’m being paid over a thousand. Which sometimes I am. So sometimes I do. I’ll get tested when I have the time (and money), but for now, I’m almost certain I’m fine. Never felt better… Spare underwear. Just in case the ones you’re wearing get covered in blood… Viagra. To make me hard. A cock ring. To keep me hard.
This cheeky Ortonesque reverie is hilariously delivered in all of its wicked rhythmic glory by Eamon Yates who gives a fearless performance as Tyler. Mr. Yates is a recent college graduate and definitely looks the part with his youthful and athletic appearance. Equally as vital is his pleasing vocal twang, wholesome countenance, concentrated focus, animated physical presence and exhibiting the prowess of an accomplished modern dancer. These attributes allow Yates to commandingly sail through the mildly salacious reenactments of sex, drugs and violence with entrancing flair while conveying the depth of the character’s crumbling psyche. In addition, he is called upon to strategically interact with audience members and with his flaring eyes to make eye contact with everyone. The totality of his unflinching achievements in the role is substantial.
Seen fleetingly and not that revealingly nude when he gets out of bed, Yates then appears in variations of costume designer Max Ruby’s perfect gleaming ensemble of white Calvin Klein briefs, white sandals and white Lacoste bathrobe. Alternating with Yates at differing performances of Bleach as Tyler is actor Brendan George.
Staged in such a contained environment, director Zack Carey imaginatively harnesses the fine technical elements, creatively paces and places the actor throughout, all yielding to a crackling presentation.
Mr. Ireland-Reeves’ solo play premiered in England at the Greater Manchester Fringe in 2017 where it won a writing award. The show has since been performed throughout the United Kingdom, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Dublin. This US premiere has been rewritten to reflect the New York City locale, demonstrating that its enduring and universal small town boy comes to the big city and ends up selling his body theme travels well. So does Tyler’s realistically dramatized bleak worldview as he attempts romance but soldiers on to the next trick without any epiphanies.
Ireland-Reeves’ adeptly constructed and flavorfully written monologue is a wild character study loaded with spicy sex worker details veering off into an American Gigolo-style psychological crime drama scenario in a moderately successful attempt to graft the essence of a plot to the reflections. The tarted up production wondrously elevates the familiar material into a relatively engaging 75 minutes joined with the novelty of the site-specific venue.
Scenic designer Joyce Hahn’s studio set of a living room and sleeping area has authenticity with its vintage furnishings and neat decorative pieces. Jake Lemmenes’ energetic lighting design creates a cinematic dimension with its variations and periodic darkness with the only illumination coming from a MacBook is a cool effect. Sound designer Robert Kent’s subtle yet forceful efforts add to the theatricality. Mr. Ruby’s props design chiefly consists of gathering the assortment of requisite items needed by a rent boy as described in the quoted speech.
Bleach is essentially a well-crafted example of a popular subdivision in the genre of gay theater that could be called a “skin play.” The title refers to the use of it in order to thoroughly cleanse something during a pivotal plot development.
Bleach (through March 10, 2019)
Tyler’s Basement, 637 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.spincyclenyc.com
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission