By Caroline Bennett; Directed by Ria T. DiLullo
Produced by Skeleton Rep
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.22.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 10.16.18
Isabella Jane Schiller, Olivia Jampol, Miranda Poett, and Miranda Noelle Wilson in Devices of Torture.
BOTTOM LINE: This subversive and darkly funny play focuses on four dominatrixes following the 2016 election.
After the depressing letdown in November 2016, there was one amusing story making the rounds, bringing much needed chuckles to those left despondent by the election results. Apparently Trump voters who felt ashamed were making peace with their guilt by going to see a dominatrix who would dress up as Hillary and whip them. Surely playwright Caroline Bennett must have seen this same news story, as her plot surrounds a MAGA-hat-wearing Trump voter who coaxes a dominatrix, Ryan (Olivia Jampol), to don pearls and a pants suit while punishing him, although in this rendition the Trump supporter isn't quite so transparent.
The play opens with recent college grad Olive (Isabella Jane Schiller) preparing for an interview to be a dominatrix, practicing her humiliation of an imaginary male client while wondering if she can really pull this off. Later we see Ryan leading another lingerie-clad dominatrix, Lila (Miranda Poett), around on a leash. Ryan and Lila are lovers, and Ryan just can't push hard enough to fulfill Lila's hunger for domination. Olive's first day involves humiliating a Wall Street douche who...likes to imitate a certain (alleged) Trumpian sex tape...and she is surprised that it does not disgust her. Similarly, Ryan and Lila discuss over lunch how they have become numb to the work, and accepting of their clients' kinks. The plot climaxes around a love triangle that forms when Olive's admiration for Lila turns into lust.
Devices of Torture is an enthralling work, performed by a talented and engaging cast. The depravity in Caroline Bennett's darkly humorous script is deeply satisfying, especially for those needing a laugh during the current political climate. Jampol and Poett are particularly impressive during their scenes of dramatic conflict, but each cast member successfully tackles both the dramatic and comedic moments in the script. Strong sound design and lighting help to convincingly turn the basement of a church into a dungeon. The script isn't perfectly balanced—some moments run too long while the central, pivotal scenes seem too brief. I would love to see it return with some revisions, perhaps with a male cast member playing the slimy clients (although some interesting gender dynamics do unfold by having women performing the male roles). Overall, in the gamble that is the Fringe Festival, Devices of Torture is a chance worth taking.
(Devices of Torture plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 22, 2018. Meet at the PURPLE FringeNYC flag. The running time is 2 hours. Performances are Sat 10/13 at 8:45, Mon 10/15 at 9:45, Sat 10/20 at 6:30, Sun 10/21 at 5:30, and Mon 10/22 at 9. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org.)
Devices of Torture is by Caroline Bennett. Directed by Ria T. DiLullo. Lighting Design by Miranda Poett. Sound Design by Ria T. DiLullo. Stage Manager is Ria T. DiLullo.
The cast is Miranda Poett, Olivia Jampol, Miranda Noelle Wilson, and Isabella Jane Schiller.