Slap & Tickle | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Slap & Tickle 

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Slap & Tickle, Bailiwick Repertory. Imagine giving 100 gay men 60 seconds each to talk about their sex lives. They probably couldn't progress much beyond basic logistics--who did what to whom, where, and when--and you'd learn little about them, sex, or yourself. But why imagine when you can sit through David Parr's willfully uninteresting play and have the experience firsthand?

Or nearly firsthand. Six actors stand in for the seemingly endless stream of men Parr interviewed for his play about "gay men's sexual experiences." Precious few have anything surprising, memorable, or thought provoking to say. The show is set in a bathhouse--for no discernible reason beyond facile titillation--and each character is introduced by the front-desk guy, who reads a name, age, profession, and sexual predilection from a three-by-five card. That's about the extent of the show's character development as the men tell hoary stories of adolescent fumblings, back room gropings, bathhouse cruising, and on-line escapades. It turns out that some gay men have lots of sex in creative and unusual ways. Who knew?

Director Jason Palmer's cast is generally likable, and at times effective. But even world-class actors couldn't transform nearly two hours of superficial observations into meaningful theater. Gay men's sex lives are already trivialized in mainstream culture; we don't need gay artists to continue the process.


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