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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Acorn


  (L to R) Austin Cauldwell, Ella Dershowitz and Daniel Gerroll/ Ph: Monique Carboni

In a program note, New Group artistic director Scott Elliott tells us, “There is nothing you’ll see in Intimacy that you haven’t seen before; it’s just that when it’s onstage, it is impossible to ignore.”
Over the course of Thomas Bradshaw’s comedy of minors, three teenagers will introduce their parents to the pleasures of frottage, anal sex and incest, while subjecting certain theatergoers to chancing what porn films call a “facial.” So I’m guessing that Elliott and I haven’t been hanging out in the same places.
I did, however, grow up in the suburban milieu that is the play’s setting, and if the more deliberately sensationalist aspects exist more in Bradshaw’s imagination than in reality, it’s the play’s subtler points that make Intimacy more than just what one of my colleagues memorably called “a boinkathon.” The sexual hijinks may beggar the bugger in only some of us, but in the end (oh, shut up), sex isn’t the subject of Intimacy.

We have three families. Ontologically overheated James (Daniel Gerroll) is the widowed father of Matthew (Austin Cauldwell), motherless teen, would-be filmmaker and ejaculator of Olympian athleticism. Matthew’s virginal but creative girlfriend Sarah (Dea Julien) is the daughter of a Latino contractor with an excitable trowel who doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, sex or family ties. Jerry (Keith Randolph Smith) and Pat (Laura Esterman) are lefty academics whose daughter Janet (Ella Dershowitz) is an up-and-coming (really, shut up) porn star.
When Matthew decides to make a dirty movie, these folks take little – and I mean very little – convincing to participate. Because they all just love each other and have so much need to express their love, social convention be damned.
I was reminded of a passage in The Night of the Iguana, when the spinster Hannah tells the lapsed Rev. Shannon about her encounter with a sorrowful man who asked her for an undergarment, clearly for onanistic purposes. Shannon is scandalized by the request: “You mean it didn’t DISGUST you?” he says. “Nothing human disgusts me unless it’s unkind, violent!” Hannah responds.
Nothing in the underheated doggerel of Bradshaw’s play can match that tender observation. Elliott’s staging is deliberate and abjures both sneering and irony. And once again one can only marvel at the willingness of extraordinary actors to give their all for little more than carfare.
I suspect they know there’s more going on in Intimacy than free-form boinking. The true breakdown in social convention, familiar to one with my tract-house upbringing, is the not-so casual racism and bigotry (with a rabbit-punch of anti-Semitism thrown in near the end for good measure). More than clothes are stripped away in the hermetic hothouse environs that make all of it plausible.

The sex in Intimacy is, for all its diversity, quite sentimental. It’s the social diseases that run disturbingly rampant.  


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