by Steve Nardoni
The L train drops us off at the Wilson Avenue stop in the southern end of Bushwick, Brooklyn, in a residential neighborhood boasting of delis, mini markets, dry cleaners, pizzerias, barbers and a smattering of restaurants. Not a Starbucks nor a Fairway to be found.
We arrive at the Bleach venue (Tyler’s Basement) down stairs to a lower level corridor, past a hemp shop and into a doorway. The audience of 8 are escorted into Tyler’s basement studio (not before we are each asked if we are ok with being touched). Several couches and arm chairs accommodate us, and as we sit and get comfortable, we notice the surroundings: a man sleeping under covers in a big bed, slippers under the bed; clothes piled on the floor, handcuffs, dance music, a bleach bottle, and a color print of Botero’s “The Dancer’s” over the bed , an irony which will be identified later on.
We are officially immersed in Tyler’s Basement. Waiting to be touched.
What follows is a stark, hilarious, pathetic, outre and grotesque pastiche, written by Dan Ireland-Reeves, in the life of a disenchanted rent boy scraping by the big, bad city. Tyler Everett, exquisitely played by Eamon Yates, shares his story intimately with the audience as he flashes back to his childhood, his hated job of cleaning tables in Chinatown, to the recent past of terrible actions and kind ones. Eamon as Tyler awakens from his slumber, and engages charmingly with the audience members, and even using one member as a prop in recreating a homo-erotic locker room scene from high school. Eamon as Tyler flits around the studio, sitting with us, dancing, aware of his beauty, secure in his seductivity, all the while telling a story of contradictions, abasement and horror. He described his exasperation with working tables and the loneliness of a big city, and his decision to get into the “service industry” of rent-boying.
First he starts out with innocuous lines like “But overall, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve really done pretty well for myself…, I really live quite a normal life… I pay my way. I send birthday cards. I have a more than active sex life.” But as he continues his patter, he slowly inches back a curtain that reveals both pathos and depravity.
Although there are recollections of trips back home to see Mom, tales of non-sexual but paid visits to his first client and “boyfriend,” Roger in Ridgewood, and a smattering love affair with James, fueled by drugs and sex, underneath it all flows a river of degeneracy that Tyler masks with dancing, humor and denial.
One line that sums up his conflict is “Ignoring the money in my bag and the blood covered briefs, I really live quite a normal life”. Tyler’s blood covered briefs are the souvenirs of what Tyler calls “The Event,” a rent-boy house call gone horribly awry.
Tyler cannot in any way, shape, or form see the reality of his life and the consequences of his actions. The bleach he uses to get the blood out of his briefs cannot clean up his life. As much as he claims he hates dancing, he has put himself spiraling in a dance of death, much like the insouciant “Dancers” hanging over his bed.
Eamon Yates’ performance, directed by Zack Carey, is amazing and chilling: he humanizes a charming young man dehumanized by the circumstances of his life, a life that is hurtling toward disaster.
Photos: Hunter Canning
Presented at Tyler’s Basement, 637 Wilson Avenue, Brooklyn on January 7, 2019. Through March 10, 2019.