Diana Oh's Pushy "Lingerie" Play, Giles's "Breeders" on the Loose, Halliday's Jumpy "Up the Rabbit Hole"

Let’s admit this about Diana Oh, whose run-on-titled {my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! The Final Installation is at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater: On pressing contemporary body and gender issues her heart is in the right place—as are her swiveling hips.

Promotion material for the intermissionless, nearly two-hour event also refers to it as a play and a protest, and there’s no gainsaying the all-encompassing description of something she also the ninth of a projected 10. (The last will take place underneath the Washington Square arch)

Oh, who, with Orion Stephanie Johnstone, co-directed this final installation is Korean, identifies herself as queer and is, rightfully, and righteously, outraged at an unrelieved patriarchal society. She’s determined to contribute to its end and sees staging her instillations as, at least, a start.

For this foray, she often wears scanty black lace apparel (she’s topless for a few minutes) as she sings and plays guitar, fronting a four-person rock band (Matt Park also on guitar), Rocky Vega on bass, Ryan McCurdy on drums). That’s while she’s often also encouraging various participatory activities with her audience.

That the intermittently intelligible rock songs are standard-sounding items that could have been written any time in the last40 years isn’t much of a problem. Some of those audience-involving segments are.

Hoping to raise consciousness, she asks patrons—among other requests/demands—to sing along and to stand and stamp their feet on the seemingly flimsy Rattlestick bleacher-like floor. At one point, she dives into a “rant,” for which she suggests the audiences snap their fingers at her approvingly. She asks attendees to blow bubbles meant to represent their world-altering aspirations. While spectators hold paper bags on which slogans have been written, she prods them to stand in two circles (one inside the other).

Why she believes this action will turn those going along with it into committed activists is anybody’s guess.

For all her decrying patriarchal oppressions, there’s an obvious one she doesn’t get around to—or even indicates she realizes is patriarchal. She definitely doesn’t refer to it in a song about wanting to be a man in order to attain masculine power. (Why isn’t she singing a song about the too-often unacknowledged potential for female power?)

No, the patriarchal influence she ignores is language. Throughout, she expresses herself in four-, seven- and 12-letter obscenities and epithets such as “f**k that sh*t.” That what used to be called “swearing like a sailor” is now common speech among all genders—cis- and otherwise—is, without question, an outgrowth of women appropriating male verbal approaches in order to obtain parity with them.

Another way of putting it is that by way of male verbal behavior, she sinks to common male lower levels. Indeed, Oh repeatedly gives the impression she’s aggressively heading there. Anyone weighing this aspect of her performance might be tempted to say to her, “F**k that sh*t.” Luckily, most people tempted to make the utterance will know enough to resist.

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If you’ve been longing to go to the theater and see one actor lick another actor’s feet and then suck that actor’s toes, you have a treat in store. It’s Dan Giles’s Breeders, winner of the 2017 New Light New Voices Award, in which the very licking-sucking activity takes place.

Breeders, directed gingerly by Jaki Bradley, is, like the above-mentioned sequence, a play that trades in the unexpectedly cute (if not cutesie) situation—even as it takes up significant contemporary issues.

On Brian Duckiewicz’s set—a circular riser holding a couch backed by a long table—Dean (Jacob Perkins, a long drink of water) is observing the hamsters in a cage atop the table. When partner Mikey (Alton Alburo) returns from work, Dean informs him that the hamsters Mikey and he believed to be two males are actually one of each sex. Moreover, they’re having sex.

Mikey, not as thrown by the discovery as Dean, would like to be doing other things, and his insistence on his request when Dean can’t tear himself from the hamsters leads to the first of the many bicker sessions the two have in the course of Posner’s alternating scenes.

Alternating with what? When Oona Curley’s lights fade on the Dean-Mikey encounters, Dudkiewicz’s couch-cum-table is turned, and the set becomes the interior of the hamster’s cage (with exercise wheel unseen). There, hamster couplers Jason (Fernando Gonzalez) and Tyson (Lea McKenny-Garcia) are discussing their recent intercourse foray—Jason more excited about it post-coitally than Tyson, who reminds him that she is the more dominant of the two.

Now the audience is steeped in the world of Giles’s play where two different couples turn out to be expecting offspring. Not unpredictably, Tyson is now pregnant, and Jason is worried about whether he’ll eat the results when they’re born. For their part, Dean and Mikey are waiting for the child surrogate that Zoe (McKenna-Garcia, briefly later) is supposed to be delivering any minute and whose arrival Dean is suddenly unsure about welcoming.

So on it goes for 85 minutes with the actors repeatedly turning the couch unit as the couples quarrel about how newborns will affect their relationships. (Dean and Mikey only become parents to one infant, Jason and Tyson to nine.)

There’s no denying that the concerns are valid, and Giles cannot be criticized for addressing them. He does a fair job along the way, but it’s a repetitive way. “Oh, no, not again,” viewers may be thinking to themselves as that (convertible) couch turns again—and Dean and Mikey and Jason and Tyson resume and intensify their quarrels, with the latter two eventually suffering more dire consequences than the former truly loving two.

All four actors—McKenna-Garcia and Gonzalez called upon to double once each—throw themselves vigorously into their roles. That’s definitely true of the two participating in the foot fetish fun. Which two—and in what compromising conditions—won’t be revealed here on the theory that seeing is believing.

Yes, relationships today, whether heterosexual or homosexual, face old and new challenges, but playwright Giles allows himself to dilute his intentions by going a get too giddy as he weaves his merry way.

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In a program note playwright Andy Halliday announces that he wrote Up the Rabbit Hole, about adoption, drug addiction and low self-esteem “to show there’s hope for people“ facing those destructive situations.

As Halliday’s program note explains, the 90-minute intermissionless work is an autobiographical work. This explains why with the production, at Theater for the New City and as developed by Windowpane Theatre Company, Halliday apparently believes he can present a series of recalled scenes from his life and assume they’ll rise from reported incidents to full-fledged drama.

Halliday stand-in Jack Harris (Tyler Jones) has brought home hunky Timothy—who looks to be an older rentboy—for a good, cocaine-aided time. He finds out after a number of shared snorts that the hopped-up guest is quick-tempered and troublesome. (Never mind that the opening sequence suggests volatile Timothy will be the play’s protagonist.)

Subsequently, Jack has exchanges with his adoptive mother, Helen Harris (Laralu Smith). She’s a woman who eventually evinces hurt feelings about Jack’s having located his biological mother, Angela Little (also Smith) as well as half-brother Bradley, a likable man commendably comfortable with his homosexuality.

As he goes along, Halliday takes patrons to and through various meetings between and among the characters. The most intriguing is a second Timothy encounter that ends violently and, as a result, goads Jack to realize the cocaine route really isn’t beneficial.

The actors, under G. R. Johnson’s sure direction, are all more than proficient in their roles—especially Coughlin, who, as the villain, predictably has the showiest outing. The cast members do their work mostly on and around a three- or four-foot high black box (Dan Daly’s set design) that sometimes, with a sheet thrown over it, serves as a bed and that sometimes, with half of the top pushed up, serves as a sofa.

Halliday puts forth a specific slice of life as precariously lived today—and in not small numbers—but he needs to do more with it.

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