Poke Until Wince
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin
August 19, 2009
Aren't we all searching for love?
Matthew Chesmore's Poke Until Wince is a short, comedic play divided into six brief scenes, each showing an encounter between two characters as they look for love or sex (or both). Each character appears in two different scenes, usually with a love interest in one scene and someone else in another. As we see the characters in different circumstances, we learn how all six are connected.
Chesmore's script gives the audience enough information to understand each scene, but he keeps it pretty pared down, and while watching it, I appreciated that each scene had a definite focus and not too much extra information, and that I had to fill in the blanks. I also appreciated the truth in the scenes, how the characters are brought to uncomfortable places. The play is not "in your face" or even "controversial," but it is intimate and truthful in ways many plays are not.
Around the middle of the play, a client at an accountant's office (Dan, played by playwright Matthew Chesmore) reveals that he knows something about Erika (Mandy Schmieder), something from her past that she wouldn't want him to know. At that moment, I realized that the play is about intimacy: wanting intimacy where you can't have it, wanting to restore intimacy you once had, and having someone act inappropriately intimate with you when you don't want it. The play's characters also ask honest questions about the differences between physical intimacy and (for lack of a better word) personal intimacy.
The set is sparse with just a couple of chairs, a folding table, and a few props establishing each setting. Between each scene, there is a typed-up description of where the scene happens and who is in it. These descriptions lend a fitting, comedic tone to the piece. The six actors all give strong, natural performances. Gregory Casimir as Bill, a massage therapist, and Mandy Schmieder, as Erika, stand out.
I especially appreciate the wordplay of the script. Scenes are connected by the repetition and echoing of phrases from one scene to another. Although the wordplay sometimes takes away some of the realism of the dialogue, it adds wit to the piece and makes it interesting.
Poke Until Wince is an enjoyable, funny, relevant play. Overall, I'm glad I saw it.