Shopping and Fucking

Local Arts Reviews

Shopping and Fucking: Coitus An' Corruptus

The Vortex, through November 3

Running Time: 2 hrs

This show is set in London, okay? So there's nothing but British accents here -- from American actors. All of whom give it a valiant attempt, but with only Clay Towery and Stephanie Swenson swimming the ocean of dialect as if they'd poured the water themselves.

I'm teasing here, can't you tell? I'm talking about accents. Accents, for fuck's sake! You want to hear about the acting and the story, what the critic has to say about the flesh of this show's body. You want it, yeah, you want it bad, don't you? I know you do.

And the audience knows, after the first minute -- in which Martin Burke vomits a brothy soup onto the coffee table in front of him -- that they're in for a rough ride. Said ride's roughness consisting of the horrible depths to which these characters have sunk and the desperation with which they try to claw their way out, of the homocentric (for the most part) sexual simulations, of the violences described and threatened and enacted.

Swenson's Lulu lives with Matthew Patterson's Robbie, see, and the two of them form a sort of emotional and sexual ménage à trois with gay junkie Mark (Burke, about as far removed from a Christmas elf as he can get). But Lulu and Robbie are giving Mark the heave-ho because he's hooked on skag and more addicted to it than to them. And while Lulu and Robbie try to survive by working for the sinister Brian (Clay Towery), Mark is out getting involved with an underage hustler who's trying to work out his sexual abuse nightmares by reiterating them through prostitution. And it all costs money, doesn't it? Yes, everything has a price; and if there are any of those little cartoon hearts hovering above the heads of these uneasily scrabbling lowlifes, those hearts are obscured by garish price tags written in, let's say it, their blood and broken dreams.

Director Barry Pineo brings out the best of his company in the Vortex Repertory Company's production of Shopping and Fucking. Patterson moves his usual solid acting up another notch, here, becoming totally believable as the emotionally floundering Robbie; he's hurt, he's spurned, he's angry, and he just wants some love, just a little love -- or enough drugs to compensate. Burke's lost and jittery and full of his own sad desires, a strung-out glass goblin looking for a place to shatter. Swenson disappears into her vulnerable character, only the sharpness of her timing suggesting a trained actor behind the mask. Tyler Whitmer works his manipulative little manchild, trying hard to fit into the adult world of sex and drugs and callousness.

But, for me, Clay Towery steals the fucking show -- which is becoming typical of him. In the midst of this well-wrought, gooey nightmare, Towery, as a kind of British Frank Booth (think Blue Velvet), is more undeniably real than Dennis Hopper or the person sitting next to you. Which is especially good, because his evil Brian's got the soapbox, the position from which playwright Mark Ravenhill lets us know Just What This Is All About. Shopping, that is, and fucking. Simultaneously.

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Clay Towery, Stephanie Swenson, Martin Burke, Matthew Patterson, Tyler Whitmer, Clay Towery

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