nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
May 30, 2009
Open-mindedness to certain sexual practices would be a plus if you're going to see Leslie Ayvazian's Make Me at the Atlantic Theater Company's Stage Two. The plot description is deliberately vague; unfortunately, some of that vagueness will be ruined herein. Knowing that the play is about how sexual domination affects the lives of three couples may ruin the initial surprise and some of the humor that stems from it. However, most of the humor in Ayvazian's play is derived from how these seemingly ordinary people deal with the practice. Make Me doesn't say much of anything, and I'm confounded as to why it would inspire a play, but it's a fun watch, given a spiffy, perfectly cast production under the direction of Christian Parker.
The scenes occurs simultaneously. Anna Louizos's set stacks the Dungeon of the dominatrix Mistress Lorraine on top of the well-appointed bedroom and living room of middle aged couple Connie and Eddie and their older neighbors, Sissy and Hank, respectively. Connie, in order to spice up her marriage, is leaving for a class taught by Mistress Lorraine in domination, handcuffing Eddie, a chiropractor late for work, to a chair until she returns. Sissy and Hank let themselves into the house, having seen Connie clad in leather, to find out what's going on. In the Dungeon, Connie encounters the Mayor participating in a bondage session. Sissy and Hank try to spice up their own relationship using role playing and the backyard clothes line.
Admittedly, the stakes aren't very high, and if the dramatic question is whether or not the relationships will survive, it's asked far too late into the 70-minute fugue and is rather inconsequential. These aren't characters that you particularly care about, although six excellent performances help a great deal. Ellen Parker and J.R. Horne are delightful as Sissy and Hank; Jessica Hecht (who can do no wrong) and Anthony Arkin are very nice as Connie and Eddie; Richard Masur's Mayor nicely conveys a great deal of emotion in downtrodden glances; and Candy Buckley is wonderful and terrifying as Mistress Lorraine.
Parker's production keeps things moving very swiftly and, really, in the blink of an eye, it's over. His and Louizos's design concept elevates the themes of domination and submission from being more than just plot points. Theresa Squire's costumes are both simple and simply intimidating. Special credit should go to Tina Nagy, billed only in the back of the program as "whip consultant."
Make Me is good fun, but substantial it isn't. In fact, it's a really strong partner for Atlantic Stage I's production of Offices, another fun, mindless piece. The cast makes them both worth seeing.