Last Updated: 10:50 AM, August 11, 2011
Posted: 10:49 PM, August 10, 2011
People get up to all kinds of shenanigans in a rented room. No surprise, then, that a few butts are bared in "HotelMotel," a site-specific doubleheader staged in a small suite at the Gershwin Hotel. And since the two plays are written and directed by Derek Ahonen and Adam Rapp -- guys who aren't afraid of sex, violence and general dysfunction -- we also get arguments, profanity, guns and a big purple sex toy.
"HotelMotel" accommodates only 20 guests at a time, making the experience unsettlingly intimate. It's one thing to watch people pretend to have sex onstage; it's quite another to watch them from 2 feet away.
Still, we're talking about two full-length pieces clocking in at a total of nearly four hours, and the novelty eventually wears out.
The evening starts with "Pink Knees on Pale Skin" by Ahonen, resident playwright for local company the Amoralists ("The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side"). The 90-minute piece is essentially a sex-therapy session in which Dr. Sarah Bauer (reigning Amoralists tragedienne Sarah Lemp) helps two married couples overcome their problems -- and works on herself.
Dr. Bauer told her clients they were going to have an orgy with each other, but things take a different course.
Both the plot and the foursome's first names echo "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," the 1969 film about sexual experimentation -- at its best, Ahonen's work recalls Hollywood when it wasn't afraid of dealing with adult issues. But despite a welcome earnestness, this story takes too many credulity-stretching shortcuts. You have to admire Anna Stromberg for her willingness to make rabbity orgasm faces, though.
The setting changes drastically for "Animals and Plants" by Rapp ("Red Light Winter," "The Metal Children"), in which two New York drug runners (William Apps, Matthew Pilieci) are holed up in a claustrophobic North Carolina motel room during a snowstorm. Things start off in a Quentin Tarantino vein, then, halfway through the intermissionless two hours, take a hairpin turn for David Lynch territory. Alas, this also marks the point when the play gets mired in darkly surreal dead ends.
By then, you really wish early checkout was an option.