Saturday, July 03, 2004

Hot N Throbbing (convergence-continuum)

Convergence-continuum stays its course with 'HOT N THROBBING'

Convergence-continuum theatre has built its reputation by doing controversial, thought-provoking plays that most other theatres in this area wouldn’t touch. And, they tend to do them very well, especially when Clyde Simon is at the directing helm. Their newest staging, Paula Voegel’s ‘HOT N THROBBING’ is exactly this theatre’s cup of tea. It is somewhat abstract, appeals to a certain nitch audience, and fits well into its 50-seat venue.

‘Hot N Throbbing’ tells the story of a dysfunctional family fighting its way to destruction. Charlene, who writes women's erotica to support her 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, is both attracted to and repelled by her ex-husband Clyde, who can't seem to leave her alone despite a restraining order. The play also offers two other voices: a woman whose dialogue represents Charlene's inner thoughts and a man who represents a variety of characters, including the male part of Charlene and the fears that Clyde has instilled in her.

But the play’s purpose is more than what appears on the surface. In reality, the script delves into the connections between sex, power and domestic abuse. As the director of a recent production in Washington, DC comments, "This is a dangerous and exciting play that is both screamingly funny and deeply devastating.”

Even the title evokes comments. The DC director stated, "I think that the title is a comment on the relationship between sex and violence and how we are very mixed up about those two topics in our society. We love to be titillated, but we chastise those who titillate us. We have one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, sex industries in the world, and the highest level of violence. I think that Paula Vogel wants us to go through that twist, to hear the title and get kind of excited, giggly, and then to realize that it is a play about domestic violence."

Vogel has been accused of being a cerebral and inaccessable writer. ‘HOT N THROBBIN’ is that. But, it does give one a chance to think, and that’s a purpose that most theatrical pieces don’t do.

The convergence-continuum has a strong cast who clearly understand their roles. Times Tribute Award winner Lucy Bredeson-Smith, who doesn’t know how to be ineffective on a stage, has the right tone and and gives a multi-textured performance as Charlene. John Regan’s Clyde is just too slimy for words. He is appropriately unkempt, pathetic and obnoxious. Geoffrey Hoffman’s slouching, slumping, geeky peformance is right on key. Though Jovanna Batkovic isn’t always believable, she pulls off the part of the teenage rebellious Leslie Ann. Sheila O’Toole, especially when she is acting out scenes from Charlene’s writing, is excellent. Cliff Baily is inconsistent as the male voice.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The question that winds its way through every scene in ‘HOT N THROBBING’ seems to be, “What happened to the human elements of tenderness, affection and a shared experience?” You won’t get the answers in the convergence-continuum production, but you will continue to think about possible answers long after you’ve left the theatre.