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Perversity filled with dirty language, intense performances


By David Mamet.

MIT Dramashop production.

Directed by Gene Schuster '94.

Kresge Little Theatre, April 26-28 at 8 p.m.

By Jonathan Richmond

Advisory Board

If Beirut (reviewed last Friday) is the climax of MIT's X-rated week at the theatre, Sexual Perversity in Chicago moves around in the netherworld of foreplay, rarely allowing its participants to move beyond frustration. While Beirut, in its strange way, is about fulfilment and is intensely erotic, Sexual Perversity is full of dirty language but essentially an asexual essay about failure.

Perversity took a few minutes to come together on opening night, and there were a sprinkling more of missed cues, but the acting overall was sparkling, the entertainment created deliciously wicked.

Craig White '93 does a stellar job of painting all the sordid little details of Bernie Litko, a guy whose attitudes towards women might just be influenced by the guy who abused him in the movies when he was a kid. White is so convincing at delivering Bernie's BS that it appears Bernie is taken in by it himself. Out of the endless stream of sexual expletives we see a character who is at heart pathetic and unable to relate to other people except by orgasm. The character is made the stronger by the construction of a consistent system of logic governing his view of the world. If everything is defined by sex -- "What do you have to do in this place to get a drink? Cum on a cracker?" -- there are also limits set which make the world within those limits real. There's a truly earnest expression on White's face as Bernie gets upset by a porn movie: "A woman blowing a man is natural, but a woman blowing a dog is disgusting."

Bernie never gets very far with Joan, a character made interesting by Julia Soyer W by her evasiveness. Joan -- a schoolteacher -- is forever wearing a mask; the blank expression Soyer gives her while she talks to a couple of boys caught playing with each other's genitals is disturbing for what lies behind it; we're not quite sure whether she's more upset by the premature ejaculatory tendencies of her former partner or by her inability to release some decidedly lesbionic (the word is Mamet's) tendencies.

Deborah (Katie Leo '95) and Danny (Daniel Aalberts G) actually get to have a relationship, even though Deborah is rather more open about her lesbionic leanings. The interchange between them is handled with continual wit. Leo's deadpan is especially hilarious. "Ask me if I like the taste of cum... Dan, I love the taste of cum," she says in a matter-of-fact way. "Doesn't it taste a little bit like Clorox?" replies Dan with a befuddled expression, as if he were talking about garlic. The audience laughs nervously. Aalberts delivers his lines with keen diction, exposing all sorts of ticklish nuances. He disturbs us when he allows his character to become a real, feeling human for some moments, something denied to the other three characters who stay pasted in the land of cardboard cutouts.

The direction of Gene Schuster '94 is nicely on target, presenting Mamet's symphony of taboos in an absorbing way. If you're prepared for an evening where almost all the language is dirty and where at least some of your laughter will be accompanied by cold sweat, this production is on target for you. It should best be seen before Beirut, to ensure that by the end of the two you will be not only completely shattered but astonished by the intensity and professionalism of drama at MIT.<\2><\2><\2><\2><\2>