Wednesday, 30 July 2008

REVIEW: "Counterfeit Skin"

(Two more to go after this one...gotta keep ‘em rolling)

The problem with being an American these days is that sex dramas are just so droll unless they have graphic masturbation onstage being performed by barely legals singing profane lyrics. The reason for this? Savage Love. For the British readers out there who have no idea what Savage Love is, it’s the ultimate sex advice agony aunt. Dan Savage, a gay man from Seattle, writes it, and along the way he encourages people to explore their fetishes, cheat occasionally (and honestly), and to keep a good sex/love/other stuff balance in relationships. Counterfeit Skin, currently running at the Courtyard, is a big Savage Love letter where everybody ignores what would be Dan’s advice. Were the play a letter to the column, it would look something like this:

Dear Dan,

I’m an unemployed gay man in my mid-20’s living with my gay godfather and long term boyfriend of about two years. Over the past few months, our relationship has become stale, as I find we’ve become almost brothers, and it’s affected my desire to have sex with him. I’ve told him that I want to explore new things - some light BDSM, some roleplaying - but he refuses to because he’s afraid he’ll hurt me while I’m tied up and wants love and flowers, but not sexual spontaneity. Meanwhile my godfather has started sleeping with his male receptionist who’s an ex-hooker. He’s started showing some interest in me and is willing to fulfil my sexual needs. I really want some hard fucking, but I don’t want to lose what I have with my boyfriend. He cares a lot despite incessant nagging, and I can see us together forever.

Now, what the column would suggest (albeit more succinctly written):

Your boyfriend needs to grow a pair and buy some rope. Being in a relationship means being GGG (good, giving, and game) for each other, and if he wants some hugs and cuddles you need to give in to that, but he also needs to be there when you want to be whipped in front of the milkman. Be open about it, and come to terms with this, because otherwise you’re setting yourselves up for a life of sexual misery or a vicious breakup - one which will come if you start shagging this gold digging hooker on the side. As far as your godfather is concerned, he needs to DTMFA - family are off limits.

What actually happens in the play:

Everybody whinges on and on about being miserable, how you can have a gay relationship with hot sex or tender love, how everybody is disappointed in the protagonist for being a whinging prat, and he fucks the snooty whore as the godfather starts making advances on his other receptionist, a Welsh twink who wants to be a fashion designer.

They also play the song “Little White Lie” by Temposhark during every scene change, the curtain call, and when people are let back in at the end of the interval, making for at least ten if not fifteen times that snippets of Linkin Park wannabes assault the audience’s eardrums. It’s a wretched song and made the RZ want to kill the sound designer by the end of the play.

Besides the “we can see everything going to shit” plotlines, the writing is decent enough, though nobody’s particularly likeable, and it does a passable job of confronting the issues of relationship identity in the gay community if not modern Western culture in general. With the internet making it easier than ever to have a quick screw on the side or seek out partners for flings and long term relationships, questions of monogamy and the importance of sex in a committed partnership are at the forefront now more than ever.

Now if only they’d change that damn song...

Where: Courtyard Theatre
When: T-Su @ 19:30
How Much: £16 General Admission
Concessions: £12
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £8. It’s decent and there’s nice eye candy if you’re looking for it, but the plotting is thin and obvious.
RZ Other Notes: Savage Love is also available (and highly recommended) in podcast form (RSS here) as well as written.

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