Tonight I went to see WHITE HOT, a play written by Tommy Smith and, even more importantly, directed by my friend Courtney.
I haven’t seen Courtney in months – which is both bad (I love her) and good (she’s doing lots of great things) – so I thought I’d go and check out what’s been keeping her away from me.
The play, which is showing at The Flea Theater in Tribeca, has had mixed reviews, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I really didn’t want to have that awkward moment of gushing over something I thought was jobby. But thankfully there was no need. It was great.
WHITE HOT follows two sisters who outwardly seem very different, but who share many of the same neuroses: Lil (played by Janice Amaya) is pregnant and unhappily married – forced to bury her opinions and emotions to appease her controlling husband – while Sis (Jamie Bock) believes she’s a free spirit, when in reality she’s trapped by her thirst for sex, drugs and perversion. When Sis gives Lil the number for a man willing to perform masochistic services and her husband finds it, things really kick off. Sex is definitely a recurring theme throughout this play. At first, from what I had heard about WHITE HOT, it sounded like the sort of storyline you might find unfolding in a video on an adult website like collegeporn.xxx, but I was still curious to find out more.
When the play started, I wasn’t too sure. While I know theater can get away with poetry, the opening dialogue between the two sisters (well, more like monologue followed by monologue) seemed a little didactic and I feared I wouldn’t like them.
But as the play continued, I couldn’t resist. And for what it sometimes lacked in tempo and story, it made up for with character. The way they spat venom at each other – their headiness sparking downfall and heartbreak – was gripping. Lil’s husband (Bradley Anderson) was a particular winner; he was so dislikeable and yet entirely believable. The process of his manipulation was spot on.
As a final point, I really hate gratuitous violence or repulsive acts in plays; I think playwrights believe they’re being really subversive when actually everyone’s been doing sodomy and eating babies since Sarah Kane. WHITE HOT definitely had violent moments – a grisly sex scene, some blood packets – but they weren’t unnecessary or tacked on at all. The balance was impressive.
The acting was amazing, Courtney’s direction brought it all together neatly, and I was particularly impressed with the more physical scenes. And the biggest treat of all was getting a snuggle with her. I can’t wait until the next one!
Photos by Hunter Canning at The Flea.