posted 2012-09-21 04:44:44

Bending All the Rules

Hunter theatre show kicks off the semester  

Alexis Siegel

Contributing Writer

“Romance is dead, haven’t you heard?” said Kyle Doherty, playing the flamboyantly gay Tom in the Hunter College production Bending All The Rules. This original musical focuses on the intersecting love lives of a group of young adults, whose sexual orientations differ as much as their personalities. Writers James and Joseph Salem successfully use this musical as a platform to discuss the lack of traditional romance in present day courtship. They dissect the tumultuous terrain of hook-up culture, and consider its ramifications on modern relationships and personal identities.

With its maximum capacity of 50 seats full, the Goldberg Studio was a sight to see on the show’s opening night on August 30. Director P. Tyler Britt transformed the limited space into a sparse, functional set containing a calculated scattering of various doors, chairs and a homely couch. The spartan set forced the actors to compensate with their song and dance performances.

The first scene reels the audience in with darkness and the sounds of awkward lovemaking. It continues with a rendition of the “After-Sex Song,” a song emblematic of today’s hook-up culture and an effective method of introducing the ensemble of actors. Anna Moscovic’s quirky Sam is inaugurated into the introductory song by singing about her vibrator. Despite Sam’s perceived stereotypical lesbian flannel outfit, her song offers a refreshingly open female perspective on the masturbatory experience.
In an homage to our Glee-obsessed culture, Jessica Lamdon’s token straight character, Jessica, sings and astonishingly raps “Empowerment of the Emotionally Available,” a hip-hop choreographed number. She notes the importance of ‘playing the game’ and never disclosing her true emotions to a man. Lamdon is a bit too fond of flipping her hair and cannot fully cry on cue, but she portrays the quintessential boy-crazy girl with the right amount of neuroticism. Ethan Applegate plays Lamdon’s onstage love interest Rob, whose nervous energy undercuts his homophobic, commitment-fearing attitude and makes him into a likable character, if only slightly. The pair’s onstage sexual chemistry remains deficient though, a lack magnified by their mechanical choreography.
Andrew Pichardo’s casting in the role of Marc could only be called a stroke of genius. Pichardo’s New York accent and imposing stature provides depth to his character. Marc’s ex-boyfriend John (Bryon Azoulay) is constantly using him sexually, only to throw him out the next morning. Marc’s lack of will to extract himself emotionally from John’s indifference only makes him more admirable. “If you don’t want to sleep with me,” he says, “then man the fuck up and don’t.” Azoulay wears the costume of promiscuity well and makes John an easy villain, clearing the way for Tom, Marc’s other love interest. Unfortunately, Tom and Marc’s relationship lacks the same sexual charge, as shown in an unnecessary and lackluster tango during the show, though they compensate for their lack of onstage chemistry with obvious compatibility and Tom’s endearing nature—before Marc’s inevitable liaison, at least.

Several messy love triangles are played realistically throughout. Rebecca Hudson’s character Tammy has enough love for both Sam and Alex (Jillian Stevens), and it’s difficult to watch because the situation seems so believable. We strain with Tammy, who begins confident, as she is overcome with uncertainties. Moscovic portrays Sam as demure and adorably geeky, and we cannot help but root for her place in Tammy’s heart. But Stevens steals the show as Alex with her wild curls and painted red lips imbuing her with a narcissistic, charismatic, sultry presence that calls to mind a certain bisexual female character in RENT. She is made even more entrancing during her solo “Back In Town” where her once-superficial character is made multidimensional through her loving lament over Tammy.
The play is lengthy at two hours and forty minutes, and the clean-cut ending feels a bit forced and unsatisfying. But overall, the cast exhibits extraordinary musical ability, and their compulsion to break the fourth wall is both hilarious and intriguing. The message is poignant for a generation where the game of give- and-take in the hook-up era has become extremely complicated and, frankly, exhausting.