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  •  REVIEW: AUTOEROTICISM IN DETROIT

      Autoeroticism in Detroit
    A wheel-life soap opera

    The potentially interesting story of the quest to develop an electric car takes a back seat to predictability in "Autoeroticism in Detroit."

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com


    One thing that "Autoeroticism in Detroit" is not about, exactly, is autoeroticism. It's more about "auto eroticism" — that is, cars and sex — in the capital of carmaking if not lovemaking. The play tells two overlapping stories, one about the race to develop a marketable electric car and one about an executive's disintegrating family.

    AUTOEROTICISM IN DETROIT
    Written by: Steven Somkin.
    Directed by: Stephen DiMenna.
    Cast: J.R. Robinson, Jill Kotler, Peter Husovsky, Colleen Clinton, Dennis Jordan, Stu Richel, Lianne Kressin.
      
    The executive, Brock (J.R. Robinson), has been put in charge of developing the electric car for General Motors, and as he rises up the GM ladder he naturally starts to wonder if he shouldn't reward himself with somebody a little younger and sexier than his more or less respectable wife Natalie (Jill Kotler). There are some unexpected twists as passion takes over for common sense.

    The play includes some snappy dialogue, some of it so snappy that one character is given all the most outlandish lines and the others roll their eyes when she spouts them, like when she describes society wives as "superannuated debutantes" traipsing through "mangrove swamps of affectation." The script is also subtly peppered with references to cars in a natural, unremarkable way that illustrates how deeply cars affect our lives without our giving their role much thought — they're places for seduction, danger, contemplation, solitude and self-image, we're reminded if we listen closely. Date the auto executive and "you're a hood ornament," the potential mistress is warned.

    The push and pull among the characters needs one thing to save it from predictability: more cars! The electric-car story seems to run out of gas halfway through the production, just when the two story lines really need to intersect to make this story uniquely interesting. Why is this family upheaval more interesting than that of a tire executive in Akron? Developing the electric car should be a source of high pressure as well as high anxiety in these people's lives, but it seems to be happening in a different world. (Heck, I'd just like to know if this guy is the genius who named GM's prototype the "Impact." Think about it — do you really want to buy a car named after a traffic accident?)

    The messy family breakup itself is even handled in a surprisingly tentative way. The characters muddle through without learning much, and it's like they — if not the playwright — had a chance to confront some strong emotions but backed away. The play is glib enough and takes on an unusual enough subject that you want to like it, but it misses its chance to be something special.

    JANUARY 16, 2001
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Autoeroticism in Detroit:

  • Where can I find...   from Stephanie, Jan 19, 2002
  • Re: Where can I find...   from Stacy, Feb 13, 2006
  • Re: Where can I find...   from Shannon, Nov 5, 2010

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