Scott, Richard, and I saw this play off Broadway on 6/24. It was at the Rattlestick Theatre, a cute little upstairs theater on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village. Just when you think you’ve been to every theater… You might remember a few years ago, Vanessa Redgrave was doing a play written by Jesse Eisenberg, the young actor who played Mark Zuckerberg in *The Social Network*. This is where that show played.
*Twentieth-Century Way* was written by Tom Jacobson and stars Will Bradley and Robert Mammana. Here’s the blurb from the website, it gives a much better description than I could give: “Based on a little-known incident in LA history, this theatrical thrill ride explores the collision of reality and fantasy as two actors juggle various roles to entrap homosexuals for ‘social vagrancy’ in the public restrooms of 1914 Long Beach. But are they actually entrapping each other? Who they are and what they need is a mystery that deepens with every twist and turn.”
We enjoyed it a lot. It reminded me of *Venus In Fur*: in both plays you’re often unsure when the actors are being sincere and when they’re playing a role. Jacobson added an extra level of ambiguity, where you weren’t sure when what they were enacting was something they were coming up right then, or something that had actually happened, that they were presenting for themselves. It was very complex but done in a way where it felt worth the effort.
The actors were both very good, both playing very demanding roles and going after them with great skill and relish. I would guess they played ten or twelve roles each, changing characters practically mid-sentence, using their voices, bodies, and minimal costumes or props to make the transitions. It was thrilling.
The emotional content was multi-layered. One recurring character was a florist, a soft-spoken, well-mannered, dreamy sort of guy. On the one hand you ached for him, knowing how badly he wanted to engage with the other man - - but on the other hand you felt bad for him, because he didn’t know that it was all a trap and would land him in jail.
We were seated in row H, close to the back of the theater. This theater is so small, you could be in the back row and still not be very far from the stage. We were given the option, right before the show started, of moving up to row C - - and what a treat that we did, because it gave us a much better vantage point for the full nudity in the final scene! Yowza.