There’s a thin line between love and hate, but even a thinner line between pain and pleasure. The exploration of this delicate balance is the subject of Kim Davies, erotic new play Smoke. Director, Tom Costello, leads his cast on this tight rope with great precision, making the audience sit on the edge of their seats and gasp multiple times with fearful excitement. This play could be the replacement for Viagra and other sexual stimulants. Simply, Smoke is smoking hot!
What happens when a young, naive girl enters a sex party for BDSM and meets up with her father’s intern? This is the premise of Davies work. The next 70 minutes are a sexually-charged sparring match between Julie and John, the only two characters in the play. Their preferred sexual roles are revealed as John is a Dom and Julie a Sub. However, John and Julie don’t fit the stereotypical definitions of these roles. John can be tender and sensitive, while Julie can be fiery and combative. Watching these two actors negotiate the subtleties and nuances of their prospective re;ationship is like peeling an onion layer by layer. Their physical attraction is clear, but their mental angst and lust is thrilling to watch. Like a great tennis match, we see two worthy opponents battling it out and, in turn, displaying their vulnerability.
Madeleine Bundy plays the delicate, but deeply troubled Julie, excellently. She is a pleasure to watch. Bundy digs in deep and makes Julie a force to be reckoned with. Stephen Stout makes for a worthy partner in John. He is full throttle and fires on all cylinders. He is as scary as he is sweet, making him dangerously seductive. The two actors have a palpable bond, that makes for stunning theater. We gasp when they gasp and laugh when we laugh. They are truly a tour-de-force!
Watching this play is much like voyeurism; you want to turn away but you can’t help yourself from indulging in this erotic, almost fairy-tale like, early romance between two lost souls. The audience is in very close physical proximity to the actors, which makes it impossible to disengage. Costello is leaving his post as a Resident Director at the Flea. After seeing his dynamic understanding of this intense play, its safe to say that we are losing a top-notch artist and await to see his return. This production is stellar all around. (direction, actors, and playwright) The technical brilliance is remarkable and heightens the realism of the play. A play like Smoke can either go up in flames or smolder and singe everything it touches. I think its the latter of the two, but you should go see it for yourself and make your own decision.
Smoke plays now through September 28, 2014 at The Flea, 41 White Street. http://www.theflea.org/