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    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
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  •  REVIEW: BEAST: A PARABLE

    beast: a parable

    Sleeping With the Enemy

    Writer-director J. Julian Christopher pushes a promising premise past the point of credibility with his new play, "beast: a parable."

    By REESE THOMPSON
    Offoffoff.com

    About halfway into J. Julian Christopher’s new play, "beast: a parable," the brand-name assortment of racial and sexual taboos seems to have been clearly presented. An audience member can even begin to think it safe to settle into a state of comfort, having squirmed through twenty minutes of sexual power-play, wherein charged speech about Jews, Asians, Homosexuals, and Marxism(!?) is dropped as flippantly as pillow talk. This is obviously not your grandmother’s BDSM play.

      
    BEAST: A PARABLE
    Written and directed by: J. Julian Christopher.
    Cast: Dennis A. Allen II, Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson.
    Sound design by: J. Julian Christopher.
    Set design by: J. Julian Christopher & Sheila Donovan.
    Costumes by: J. Julian Christopher.
    Lighting design by: Sheila Donovan.
    Production stage manager: Sheila Donovan.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre
    38 Commerce St.
    Fringe Festival 2008, Aug. 8-24, 2008

     RELATED ARTICLES
    Fringe Festival 2008
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  • Reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • Hidden Fees*
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • The Third from the Left
  • Zombie
  • However, Christopher is not content until he’s upended the audience member’s expectations at every turn, piling revelation upon stilted exposition and provocative exchange. This was unfortunate for a Fringe play whose first half promised to be a genuinely thoughtful and insightful exploration of the fine gray area where sexuality and bigotry interact.

    For a play that clocks in at under 45 minutes, "beast: a parable," does pack a punch. In a seedy motel room that rents by the hour (a setting that surely constitutes its own genre of American theater), we meet Marcus and Julia, a black man and a white woman, in a state of combative post-coitus. From the beginning of the play, we can sense that this is an odd pairing, the sort that can never exist outside the boundaries of this motel room. The differences between these two go way beyond skin color. Everything about Marcus suggests a clean-cut, handsome, athletic, well-to-do African-American man who surely could have nothing in common with Julia, a chain-smoking, tequila-gargling, neo-Nazi with a swastika tattooed on her breast. Sexuality contradicts our show of principle. That they are committing adultery is even beside the point.


      
    This is obviously not your grandmother’s BDSM play.  

      
    Here I really have to give praise to the thoughtful costume and prop design. Everything from Marcus’ crisp T-shirts, his white ankle socks, and his fancy flip phone contrasts with Julia’s faded boxer shorts, her tattered mane of blonde hair, her dark roots, and her silver-colored purse.

      
      From the beginning of the play, we can sense that this is an odd pairing, the sort that can never exist outside the boundaries of this motel room. The differences between these two go way beyond skin color.
      
    They share an odd intimacy, and we come to understand the depth of their connection when a racial slur is employed as sex talk. The slur in question, of course, is the one that begins with the letter “N,” and I admire Christopher’s way of delving into the complex relationship that both parties have with the word. Ultimately, though, this theme fails to pay off. Christopher has the ability to hold the stage with sometimes thrilling writing, but the questionable priority he seems to give to provocation over credible character development undermines the promise and complexity of the play's early scenes.

    Having made me curious about his characters and the dynamics that brought them together, Christopher goes on to do a good job of showcasing their many contradictions and perversions. However, the play’s ambition to leave the audience with a final surprise dénouement undercuts the credibility of the first half. Up to that point, I was even willing to buy the swastika tattoo, and the pay-by-the-hour motel that provides in-room Fox News. This was unfortunate for the actors, Dennis A. Allen II, and Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson, who both did admirable jobs with their respective roles. That the ending leaves you with more questions than you had is not the problem; it’s that they are the wrong questions.

    AUGUST 15, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on beast: a parable:

  • Beast-an insightful mix of race and sex   from sarah, Aug 19, 2008

  • Post a comment on "beast: a parable"