Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing three shows.
Bedtime Solos. . .(A No-Touching Show about Sex)
Bedtime Solos by Jakob Holder, assistant to Edward Albee (I have learned), is a show about two people in a sexual relationship that’s being performed at Assembly Roxie. The entire performance includes a man, and woman, all dressed in white, and a white bed. The theatre space was a black box theatre. I found the text to be an extreme-ly lyrical play, to the point that the heightened language was so constantly heightened I got lost in a lot of the meaning. The general idea is that while the man and woman, who go unnamed, are sexual together, they are emotionally the farthest apart, and struggle to connect their wants, desires, and expectations with their lives. One thing I found interesting and absolutely frustrating is that the actors never actually touch. For a show about sex, it was a great gimmick, but I didn’t find it did service to the play.
The set, itself, was beautiful and interesting, but I found myself staring at it – not at the acting. This may be due, in part, to how still the actors are when they deliver the lines, which I consider more akin to spoken word poetry than to dialogue. The characters reminisce about sexual experiences, what they think about during sex, and their relationships. Often times, when the characters do speak to each other, it’s in questions, and often they don’t answer each other. But this is often done standing at the corner of the bed, looking at the audience, while the other member of the duo lies on the bed, or stands, or stares off.
For me, I found the stillness of the performance visually tedious. There is something to be said for stillness on stage, but most of the time that’s when the stillness is in contrast to the movement, or connection – and I felt almost no movement, or connection, going on within this piece. Even when the actors have-sex-without-touching, it felt abstracted, unreal, and dreamlike – just like the rest of the play, and without the emotional weight or veracity of people struggling in the moment.
I found that both actors struggled with intonation. For example, the woman would try to express vocal excitement about a non-sexual topic, but the sounds would sound always sexual. Or, the man had a monotone intonation that I found just didn’t work super well for most of his dialogue: he sounded angry, or frustrated, which he often was, but constantly. It flattened his emotional journey.
The title, too, seems a bit too well-planned. The pun of “bedtime solos,” referring to masturbation, as well as referring to idleness and loneliness. . . it’s a bit too neat, for my tastes.
I felt the show had good intentions, and a great idea, but this all gets lost in execution.