Combining a play about blind-dates with blind dates, Stirring is a theatrical piece that tackles the online-dating boom to explore its social fiber or lack thereof. Though its observations about the fallacies of online-meetings are right on the ball, it uses an elementary style of staging to its own detriment to bring them to fruition and the writing lacks direction.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Comprised of seven cast members, Shoshona Currier and Charles Forbes' Stirring is an actors' field-day for expression and exhibitionism. Consisting primarily of monologues and two-person scenes, it is the opportunity for actors to flex their theatrical muscles and shine where they can. In that respect, Stirring is a triumph. In general, the cast is skillful in comedy and drama, particularly in making what is often unfocused writing seem coherent. The production, however, is inundated with cliches, pantomimes that are meant to be progressive but are juvenile, and a blocking style that is too rudimentary for its current themes.
Kim Gainer (Sasha) is believable as the statue to Matt Bridges' Pygmalion (a fun, socially inept James). As an IT professional, she is the medium used to convey the practical, though troubling reliance on the information superhighway. Though Sasha is easily the most fully-formed character, the story of Ovid doesn't have any room to breathe in this piece. It is an introduction of a weighty topic that should be a play unto itself, and its inclusion is much like a thesis without corroboration. With Sasha's introduction comes the flaws in the play's staging. The seven characters are spread out in the space, perhaps in an effort to suggest the gap in their intimacy with each other. However, with so much space separating them, the audience must dart their eyes to and fro, sometimes missing what may be pertinent gestures or movement.
“Tell me about you” retorts Trip (a wickedly pretentious Jack P. Dempsey). Therein begins his exchange with flaxen-haired and raunchy Laura (a hopeful Rachel Plotkin) in what ultimately becomes a sweet, almost-relationship. Jen Taher's Joy is a spunky blogster with a lisp, and her character has the best and most concise monologue about conformity. Joey Williamson's Daniel is full of flair in his quest for a connection with Harry-Potter look-a-like Brandon Bales' Ryan, brother to Trip and undercover homosexual.
Stirring manages to capture all facets of online-dating: the duplicity, the desperation, the longing for intimacy yet the reluctance to give it, the depraved, the boredom with reality, and the lofty expectations. Technology is advancing, but communication continues to decline. It is a testament to the fact that online interactions are anything but “harmless”, “not serious” and “just playing.” Some vehicles used to effectively illustrate that point are the “cacophony of lies” scene in which all the characters “mis” communicate their sentiments at once, the cast's rendition of The Smiths' “Please, please, please let me get what I want,” and the heartbeat sound used to indicate anxiety when one character asks for a meeting.
To cap off the night, single members of the audience had the option to participate in speed dating in 4-minute rounds. As I was a novice, I thought it would be fun to partake in blind-dating first-hand, and it was. Although I'm not sure how much can be gauged from someone in such a short time, the non-committal aspect of it is refreshing and takes the pressure off of making a good or bad impression. Also, speed-dating is a great opportunity to meet a variety of people and cultivate your social skills. As my spiel started to become as repetitive as a business card, it was fun to see people's reactions to learning that I was reviewing the show. It seemed to trigger either curiosity or nerves (some of the participants were cast members). Of course, I was merely there for research, ahem.
Although plagued with social pitfalls, my positive experience as a speed-dater only alludes to the fact that online-dating is here to stay. Yet, there is no evidence that lack of integrity is more rampant online than it is in regular dating. Patience is certainly an important virtue, though. After all, it takes patience to craft witty emails and photoshop photos.
Through March 25th. InterArt Annex: 500 West 52nd Street. $10, $20 for speed-dating nights (March 17th, 23rd and 24th). 212-352-3101