Shopping & Fu©#!ng @ Monkey Wrench Collective
Young Irish city dwellers search for meaning in dark East London places in this play by Mark Ravenhill. The collapse of the Soviet Union leaves Europe in moral vacuum. “We all tell stories” says the play’s character, Robbie (Alexander Price), and at first you think he means plays or narrations of occurrences.
What he is really pointing at are the narratives we use to shape our lives. The play occurs after Europe’s long succession of narratives, guided by the divine right of kings, terminated in the divine right of the people, and then was no more. The play was written just after the fall of the Wall that was built “for the people” in Berlin. All the narratives, the fairy tails, the “stories” which they judged their lives by fell with that wall.
This is the dark dead-end in the blind alley where we find the characters, discovering their own morality by something slightly better than trial-and-error. Mark (Keith Bennett) has discovered “transactions”, mutually beneficial reciprocal actions. This is near the beginning of the play and I think I have avoided spoilers so I will let you discover where he takes transactions. I can say that it is like a blind groping for the new morality in capitalism.
The cast speaks each in the characters own regional UK dialect. There wasn’t the slightest hint that all but one of the actors are from the US. I can’t speak highly enough of the cast. It is pretty enjoyable to have such stellar actors let the characters shine through them and portray their story in such an informal setting. In parts the actors are unbelievably convincing. This helps you get through some of the gruesome or sordid details.
The directing, the stage, and the telling of the story are all excellent. When Dave Barton told me that his is the best avant garde theater in Orange County I took it not as boasting but as an accurate assessment.
WARNING: While this is an adventurous tail some people might be offended, or even disgusted by some of the content. Don’t bring people with delicate minds.
SPOILER ALERT!!! There are some interesting discoveries made in the play. Mark discovers transactions, for instance. But it seems to be the authors intent not to explore these new discoveries (a morality based on mutually beneficial transactions between individuals), but to resurrect the recently deceased morality of feudal, and then social duty. The most grotesque act in the play is the fulfillment of Gary’s (a stellar performance by Peter Hagen) desire to be controlled and subjugated. True to his art Mark Ravenhill follows this path to it’s end, where it always ends, literally, human sacrifice.