A Midwinter’s Night Wet Dream: Fullstop’s “Foreplays” in the Galapagos, Feb. 8 – 23

“They be scared and lonely. “

l to r: Caroline Calkins as Girl, Michael Micalizzi as Mikey; Cliff Campbell as Clifford in Patrick Shaw’s “Mad Twitterpated,” all photos by Brian Hashimoto

So says Michael Micalizzi as the thug wannabe Mikey in Patrick Shaw’s “Mad Twitterpated,”  directed by Alexandra Bassett. He pleads this in reference to the orphaned bear cubs he has been cluster adopting over Facebook on behalf of Cliff Campbell’s character Clifford. But his observation goes far beyond its immediate context.

It seems to be a (mostly urban) jungle out there for most of the young lovers, or rather love aspirants and acolytes, who strutted their hours upon the stage, screen, aisles, balcony and waters of Galapagos Art Space in February in Fullstop Collective’s Foreplays. The eight brief plays, two short videos, and live musical interludes that comprised this showcase on the Mondays bracketing Valentine’s Day, provided a mid-winter night’s scheme of the trials and tribulations of romantic love among a certain slice of the population in a highly mediated age.  If most of the characters find themselves lost in the woods and among the thickets of hook ups and hang ups in a bewildering array of polymorphously perverse potential permutations, then perhaps we can sympathize with their desire to hang on to the cuddlier, if stuffed, versions of lions, tigers and bears with which they grapple, even as they long for each other.

Sarah Ann Masse posts her panda in Lillian Meredith’s “there is no part of me..."

So if Cliff and Mikey’s play within a play involves dream visualization projected via, uh, Droid, and ends with kids and a mortgage, their confusion cannot be considered uncommon.  Wonder the women in Lillian Meredith’s “there is no part of me that wants to have sex with you right now and yet here we are.”  They confide in one another that they have never had an orgasm during sex, simulate coitus with their giant teddy bears, have trouble deciding whether they want it “hard” or “soft,” and rant about being insulated, via Midol, from the emotional roller coaster of their own natural cycles. They ponder existential and psycho-political questions around penetration:

After admitting to her friend that penetration is what she wants from her lovers, Lauren Weinberger’s character frets that, “maybe that’s scary. Maybe that’s not the healthiest way to have a permanent and meaningful relationship with someone – to have them constantly be inside you but you’re never inside them. I mean, … the problem I keep running into is how can I ever have an equal un-patronizing, non-sexually frightening relationship with a man when I really really want him to dominate me and pound me into tomorrow?”

Sarah Ann Masse’s character thinks her friend may be, “doing [her]self a big disservice thinking this way….

“Well, I mean, you’ve just completely negated for yourself the possibility of ever having a permanent, sexually satisfying relationship with anyone….

“including yourself.”

l to r: Laura Wiese, Lauren Weinberger, Sean McIntyre and Sarah Ann Masse

The expectations and the etiquette of politically correct sex in an epoch of texting, drinking binges, supercharged sex toys, internet porn, post-feminist and post-Freudian politics, and pop psychology emerge as preoccupations in Brian Hashimoto’s “porn.edu,” and Bassett’s “Lust Trust,” directed by David Jaffe.

Louiza Collins and Conrado De La Rosa with other cast members in Benjamin Smolen’s “The Lewis Family Waltz"

The latter two of these themes also crop up with less contemporary reference as kinky Viennese proto-fascist subtexts in Benjamin Smolen’s “The Lewis Family Waltz,” directed by Shaw, with its dancing couples stuttering and undone over the name “Germany,” and Lucy Gillespie’s mock-historic “Fore-Shadow-Play.”

The first three pieces have all been created with imaginative theatrical conceits and hint at the range, if not always the reach, of talent that Bassett, as artistic director of Foreplays, has deployed in challenging her collaborators to bring this showcase to life. That talent achieves its fullest realization in her staging of Anton Handel’s “Analogue,” which uses the formal stage, the exposed areas of wading pool over which Galapagos has suspended its orchestra-level booths, and the railings and ledges of the surrounding balcony to weave an Avatar meets Matrix style videogame fantasy into a family sitcom all within a theater artist’s restaurant day job narrative.  Here the spirited performances by Celeste Arias, Analise Hartnett, Meredith, Scott Morse and Brenden Rogers meet Bassett’s creative handling of Handel’s script in the evening’s most ambitious spectacle.

Celeste Arias and Scott Morse in Anton Handel’s “Analogue.”

To be sure, the allure of ambition and energy emerge as the hallmark of this long evening even if the short videos “Hobo Proposal” by Ironic T-Shirt, and the satirically sharper “Call My Boyfriend” by Diana Wright, as well as the soul cover sets by the quartet Quiet Loudly might have been more imaginatively integrated to facilitate the flow of events and interactivity. Bassett and her collaborators sometimes betray a literary and theatrical reverence that smells more of the perfume of a fine liberal arts education than it does of teen spirit, but the strength of their cooperative rests in a sense of shared adventure and risk.  The more they continue to challenge each other, and to raise their realization to the level of their ambition, the more Fullstop will distinguish itself as a collective not only worth watching, but dating long term.

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