Review by Susan Hasho
It’s a nasty pornographic little world where you meet all kinds of kinky people, and end up in a relationship with one. The playwright Thomas Bradshaw is a purveyor of shock and controversy. His plays play on the edge and push, almost dare, an audience to test their limits.
In Fulfillment Bradshaw’s play at the Flea Theater, Michael is interested in pursuing his co-worker Sarah because she wants kinky sex on their first date and he really likes that about her. By day she is a bespectacled colleague and by night a girl who might just let you do anything with or to her. She is also in a meditation group which she takes him to. He settles on a million dollar apartment, shows it off to Sarah and his good friend Simon. But at dinner, it is clear that the noise from the upstairs apartment is an issue. His neighbor’s child is too noisy. Except we find out that his upstairs neighbor is purposefully trying to destroy him, or at least his home life.
Meanwhile, he isn’t making partner at the law firm because, as Sarah says, he’s Black, and women and Blacks aren’t really making partner at the firm. He confronts his boss Mark, who says it’s because he’s got a drinking problem which is when we discover—he actually does. Sarah reveals that she’s the child of an alcoholic, and he should go to AA. She will help him recover and pulls out the Big Book from AA to begin his education on sobriety. She is very astute with the AA lingo and full of helpful tips. One thing she suggests is that he meditate through the noise from upstairs. The noise becomes more and more extreme; a balcony playing area reveals the neighbor Ted inventing all manner of clamor with bowling balls, little metal feet, rolling lawnmower-looking apparatus, et al.
Things do come to a head—Ted and his daughter get hit by a car while talking to Michael. Of course, Michael is drinking again, and entertaining a Black client Delroy and doing coke when Ted, alive and in a rage, comes to visit. The rest is too much to reveal. But you get the gist.
Fulfillment is directed with almost military precision by Ethan McSweeny. Set pieces move smartly into place or cruise around on wheels; the timing of movement is obviously important. And, there is a sex choreographer (Yehuda Duenyas) as well as a fight choreographer (J. David Brimmer). The action is punctuated with graphic sex scenes which serve to dehumanize the characters. There is a calculated coldness to the proceedings which serves to render the sex rather unsexy. And the procession of events is so methodical that any notion of spontaneity is iced out. In the end, it is a professionally performed experiment—signifying—up to the audience to say…
The production features: Otoja Abit (Delroy), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Michael), Jeff Biehl (Ted, Leonard), Christian Conn (Simon), Denny Dillon (Bob, Agent, Waiter), Susannah Flood (Sarah), and Peter McCabe (Mark).
*Photos: Hunter Canning
Performances run September 11 – October 19 at The Flea (41 White Street between Church and Broadway, three blocks south of Canal in Tribeca). www.theflea.org