Sex and Hunger
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 15, 2005
As Britain's Prince Harry has vividly reminded us this past week, rich, powerful, over-privileged 20-year-olds do really stupid, thoughtless things sometimes.
This seems to be the main idea of Kyoung H. Park's one-act play Sex & Hunger, in which six fabulously wealthy young people convene in the luxurious Central Park West penthouse of one of them to ingest drugs, drink, have sex, behave dysfunctionally, and—as it develops—destroy the poor person who has dared to intrude on their lifestyle. The group includes a young woman named Sonia who is related to North Korean dictator Sung Il Kim; Sinta, an African Muslim wine heiress who speaks with a French accent; and Isabella Passolini, who has just won an Oscar—these three apparently have known each other for quite some time, reminiscing at one point about a trip they took together abroad. The men in the party are David Ricardo, a Latin hip-hop sensation; Blake Williams, a Columbia student who everybody says is going to be President of the United States one day; and Michael Eisenstein, his Jewish best friend who will be his Chief of Staff and who now supplies him with cocaine. The outsider is Tomas Kovarik, Sonia's current boyfriend, a Czech hunk who is supposedly heir to a brewery fortune.
Blake seems to be the protagonist of the play for most of its running time; he also seems to be a sort-of youthful doppelganger for George W. Bush—a not-too-bright but kind-of likeable scion of wealth who is destined for great power and unquestioningly sure of his entitlement to it. But whatever resonance such a mapping might produce dissipates fairly rapidly in the context of Park's weirdly plotted story: Blake is in love with Sonia, and determined to win her as his wife, whatever the cost. But, as Michael points out, the future President of the United States can't marry a relative of a North Korean communist dictator.
Sex & Hunger puzzled me. Who are these people? How old are they? Blake is in college, but presumed contemporaries David and Isabella are enormously successful entertainers; we don't know how the others pass their days.
What year is it? Blake is taking a class in Women's Studies and reacting to it as if feminism were something brand new (perhaps it is to him; the males in this play are generally presented as Neanderthals when it comes to sensitivity to the opposite sex). And everybody seems inordinately concerned that Tomas might be a Communist—though surely there haven't been Communists in charge of the Czech Republic since 1989 when, one imagines, these young people were in elementary school. Such inconsistencies make it hard to buy into Park's premise.
And so the possibilities of this piece—satirical, political, farcical—fail to gel; ultimately, it felt more like a group of young people pretending to be really, really rich—and perhaps trying to shock us with nearly non-stop foul language, simulated (kinky) sex play and drug use, and amorality—than the edgy dark comedy that I suspect it wants to be At its best, Sex & Hunger sort-of works as a study of a spoiled but clueless young man trying to win the girl of his dreams (and Matthew Rini's grounded performance as Blake contributes mightily here). Mostly, though, Sex & Hunger touches superficially on a whole bunch of interesting and occasionally inflammatory subjects without actually telling us anything we didn't already know about them.