Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bathing Caps and Pity Sex

It was a lot to spring on a man.

When my bike-riding friend had suggested we get together, I'd suggested tonight so we could walk over to ThetareLAB and see "Dry Land." He'd offered up dinner in exchange for the play and was even willing to walk wherever I chose to dine.

We like that in our friends.

Given the balmy evening, nothing suited me better than meandering to Maya for tilapia tacos and a discussion of the best couples therapy book he's ever read. Across the street, hundreds of family members streamed into Centerstage for the Richmond Ballet's annual Minds in Motion performance.

By the time we left to walk over to TheatreLAB, the sun was waning and the night air ideal for a stroll. At this point, my friend still had no idea what he was in for, but it didn't take long to find out.

A sign by the box office was a trigger warning about the play and as strongly worded as it was, from the first scene it was clear it couldn't have been worded too strongly.

Taking place in a locker room, the story follows high school girls on the swim team dealing with the usual high school angst - you know, abortions, slut-shaming and the ugliness of female friendships.

Midway through the 90-minute play, my friend leaned in and whispered, "This is a tough play!"

He wasn't exaggerating, but it was also so well executed that you couldn't look away no matter how challenging it got.

As usual, TheatreLAB had managed to totally transform their basement space, this time into a blue-tiled locker room with wooden benches and lockers. You could practically smell the chlorine in the pool just offstage.

Like they always seem to do, TheatreLAB had also chosen a topic-of-the-moment, infusing it with veracity given the completely believable performances of leads Aiden Orr and Jessie Kraemer as the swimmer determined to abort her pregnancy and the swimmer doing her best to help her do so.

Although it was a small part, Dixon Cashwell, in a t-shirt reading "Pity sex," managed to be both awkward and sweet, a combination he always nails splendidly.

But ultimately it wasn't a play about abortion, but a play about children - because that's what high school students are - making important decisions without the assistance of the adults in their life, layered with the usual coming of age issues of how kids want their friends to see them, with a heaping helping of navigating female friendships and their mercurial nature on top of it all.

A reminder, in other words, that the high school years are exhausting.

Let's just say that by the time we'd watched the screaming agony of bloody labor, my friend was in no mood to stay for the talkback with the cast. Instead, we had our own discussion of the play as we walked home, quickly realizing that our gender disparity meant that I'd picked up on things few men, including him, would have.

"I think this is a play I'll be thinking about for a while," he observed as we sallied through Jackson Ward, thanking me again for inviting him.

Not every guy would be so gracious about seeing so much estrogen playing out onstage. Luckily, I'd asked someone just tough enough.

Whether or not he's willing to accept another play invitation from me remains to be seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment