Local playwright and author Monica Byrne is having quite the year. Last week, her debut novel, The Girl in the Road, was released; just days later, her newest play, Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo, had its world premiere at Manbites Dog Theater, produced by the boundary-shattering Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern. A couple years ago, LGP helmed the acclaimed premiere of Byrne’s What Every Girl Should Know; and the production was taken to the New York International Fringe Festival, where it garnered even more attention.
Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo tells the story of a group Olympians being exposed to a new type of love and sexual desire. Finding The Zone, or a place of openness, is strived for by six trainees, led by instructors. Arturo Tarantino (Liam O’Neill), the famed Italian diver, and creator of this “Arturian” philosophy of love and sexual liberation, has gone missing; the instructors continue the teachings and practice in his honor. And some of them are pretty intense in their dedication.
The piece, overall, is a love letter to non-monogamy; polyamory consultants were used in the creation of the piece. Byrne is a strong advocate for this way of life, and her passion for it comes through in the story.
The base story is that of Khala (Nicola Bullock) and Mia (Caitlin Wells), American trapshooters, who are in an open marriage. Khala seems a bit more reserved in jumping into the practice, but Mia’s excitement finally assuages Khala’s apprehension. The trainees are randomly paired up, regardless of gender or orientation, over the course of three days. We see these first meetings, broken up between videos of the trainees giving their Olympiad bios; and we learn a lot about these people. Byrne does a fine job rounding them out and creating a fleshed-out batch of characters in 90 minutes, though her ambition to create such a multinational cast led to a fair amount of mediocrity in dialects, though it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the actors.
The actors also handle the sexual components of the show with a strong attack. There’s nudity, folks. In copious amounts. It’s intimate and leaves nothing to the imagination. But the actors seemed comfortable, perhaps even relishing in their own freedoms to have the opportunity to do it.
Caitlin Wells and Nicola Bullock drive the majority of the show, and thankfully the story is in capable hands. Wells’ emotional intensity and volatility is palpable, whereas Bullock handles Khala’s arc with a gentle, subtle grace. Bullock also serves as the choreographer for the piece, and gives us an incredible dance between Khala and Mia.
Other standout performances include Liam O’Neill’s Tarantino, LaKeisha Coffey’s Erma, Allen Tedder’s Suileman, and Ishai Buchbinder’s Aleksander. LGP artistic director Jay O’Berski keeps the show’s energy moving briskly, even when the beginning seems a little bogged down in multimedia.
Overall, Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo provides a necessary conversation on the current state and politics of sex and sexual freedoms, albeit in a clunky delivery at times. It does, however, continue to showcase Monica Byrne’s talents for addressing taboo topics in a fresh, engaging, and captivating way.
SECOND OPINION: May 23rd Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2014/05/23/make-love-not-war/; May 23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/05/23/3883326/durham-production-of-tarantinos.html; May 21st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/tarantinos-yellow-speedo/Event?oid=4163356 and Aug. 8, 2012 article by Monica Byrne: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/in-pursuit-of-world-peace-one-coupling-at-a-time/Content?oid=3121136; and May 16th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview by with Monica Byrne, director Jay O’Berski, and actors Nicola Bullock and Caitlin Wells, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/new-play-mingles-sex-and-diplomacy.
The Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents TARANTINO’S YELLOW SPEEDO, a world premiere by Monica Byrne, at 8:15 p.m. May 29-31, 2 p.m. June 1, and 8:15 p.m. June 5-7 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, presented as part of Manbites Dog’s “Other Voices” Series.
TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $18 Friday-Sunday, with a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel. Tickets are $5 for students with ID.
BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or https://manbites.tixato.com/buy.
SHOW: http://littlegreenpig.com/?p=1628, https://www.facebook.com/events/665065286897614/, and http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2013-14-season/tarantinos-yellow-speedo/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Nick Karner): http://vimeo.com/92896424.
MANBITES DOG’S “OTHER VOICES” SERIES: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2013-14-season/.
PRESENTER: http://littlegreenpig.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/LittleGreenPigTheatricalConcern.
VENUE: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater, and https://twitter.com/ManbitesTheater.
NOTE: This show contains nudity and adult themes, and is recommended for mature audiences.
Monica Byrne (Durham playwright): http://www.monicabyrne.org/ and http://monicacatherine.wordpress.com/ (official websites), https://www.facebook.com/monicabyrne13 (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/monicabyrne13 (Twitter page).
Jay O’Berski (Durham director): http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/ (Duke Theater Studies bio) and https://twitter.com/JaybirdOBerski (Twitter page).
Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. He is currently directing Theatre Raleigh’s June 18-22 and 25-29 presentation of Jon Robin Baitz’s 2011 Off-Broadway and Broadway play, Other Desert Cities, which became a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.