The Ventriloquist Circle
nytheatre.com review by Mitchell Conway
January 6, 2012
As the audience enters Dixon Place for The Ventriloquist Circle, a man in tight pink pants and a sweat band around his head is in front of a webcam, with its image projected onto the back wall. Played by Greg Bosse, the Aerobic Stripper, as he is called, seems to just hang out with his webcam on. We later see him in multitude of clips simultaneously, in a variety of locations, maybe doing exercises, or maybe sitting on his sofa. He is putting himself out into cyberspace to be seen, with no signal he is communicating in return with any of his observers. But of course, in this production, we are those watching, and he can see us back. In fact throughout the play, actors often stare directly into an audience member's eyes as they speak sexily to their scene partners. The typically objectified performer is reversing that gaze back onto the audience.
The nature of sexual desire seems to be what Sister Sylvester's production, written by Matt Wilson, is really about. Under Kathryn Hamilton's direction, all of the actors are in a constant state of "acting sexy," or libidinous in a way that is intentionally silly. Many embody a fetish, fully externalizing the most absurd of subconscious sexual desires.
We are confronted by the Milkman. Daniel Piper Kublick, in tighty whiteys and with a belt of milk bottles, plays everyone's favorite fetish video actor, "Hugh Cox." He has a priest on speaker on his cell phone, when he asks how far a fist has to go…for it to be a mortal sin? We witness his death, in the middle of a threesome that involved removing some clothing then putting on winter jackets. The cause of death was unclear, but connected to the phone call, maybe we can assume his fist went beyond the brink? Two detectives are solving the mystery of the Milkman's death, and one of them can't help but get caught up in the sexy fun of it all.
The Lonely Housewife, Milkman's long time fetish film collaborator played by Christine Bullen, enters tossing her hair in front of a fan, then mounting a piano. Later, sitting at a diner with Zoe Kira Mey (as The Girl Next Door), she insists adamantly they both order lumberjacks. Soon a man roller-skates in with an axe, then proceeds to strip as the women spray him with ketchup and mustard. In the middle of the same scene, Liliana Velasquez delivered my favorite moment of the play: the topless waitress exits only to put her arm up around the fire alarm lever on the back wall in an attempted sexy waiting position.
James "Face" Yu elegantly struts on as Horse, in heels and bondage stuff. Yu's composure and grace are distinct; Horse seems to be a force of sexual wisdom. He ends up at the center of Milkman's trial.
So, what is the ventriloquist circle? It is described in the program as a "circle of fisting." An image of shared sexual pleasure, quite abstracted from the typical image of sex. Is Wilson painting an image of sex through overblown fetish to reveal the true nature of the sexual impulse? Sex, as actually manifest, is not sexy. Acknowledging that sex is an awkward matter, maybe not as much in private as in public, we are offered the ventriloquist circle as a sort of reconciliation.