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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
To freshen up this much done theme of marriages that have lost their zip and sparkle, Leslie Ayvazian has opted to substitute S&M for marriage counselling. The idea is to not only add a potentially funny and salacious device to bored couples' arsenal of romance reviving techniques, but to use it as a symbol for the way domestic life often sets up dominant-submissive role patterns.
Too bad that Ayvazian's idea falls flatter than the perennial pancake. Watching the various examples of S&M demonstrated by three couples in simultaneously staged scenes is pointless and unfunny and, unlike Ayvazian's wonderful Nine Armenians (review) and some of her biographical monollogues, totally forgettable.
And so we have Connie (the excellent Jessica Hecht doing her utmost to make Connie charming, believable and not plain nuts) from New Jersey making a contract with her chiropractor husband Eddie (Anthony Arkin, so bland that it's hard to believe he ever agreed to the gender balancing game plan) to let her play dominatrix between the time their kids leave for school and he goes off to his chiropractic practice. She ends their first session leaving Eddie handcuffed to a chair in their bedroom and heads off to the East Village to hone her dominatrix skills.
Connie's teacher is the whip-snapping Mistress Lorraine (a convincingly menacing Candy Buckley) whose lessons Connie found on (where else?) the Internet. Mistress Lorraine has a handy demonstration model in the thoroughly dominated Phil (Richar Masur often looking as if he, like the audience, would rather be somewhere else ). Just because Phil is identified as the city's Mayor and will evoke memories of the pecadillos of New York's erstwhile governor, this is no more a political satire than it is sexually titillating.
As Connie arrives at Mistress Lorraine's, so her and Eddie's senior citizen neighbors, Sissy (Ellen Parker) and Hank (JR Horne) come to Eddie's rescue —she with breakfast and he with a hammer to break the handcuff chain. And you guessed it, Sissy and Hank are another comfortable but bored pair of suburbanites and decide to try their hand at S&M . After the first ripple of laughs, Ayvazian's increasingly repetitive details about domination and submission techniques turn tedious.
Anna Louizos' three-level set is fun, especially when it snaps open to reveal the upper level East Village lair of Mistress Lorraine. However, director Christian Parker has done nothing to keep the simultaneously executed scenes from being overly busy and often confusing.
Regular Curtainup readers will notice that this review is missing the usual top-of-the-review quote. That's because I couldn't find any lines worth singling out until I overheard some of the pained-looking audience members riding with me in the elevator leading to the exit make comments like "That was painful" and "I feel as if I've been whipped."