Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Release

The Sex of Strangers
Cameryn Moore introduces you to people she knows
by Caitlin Murphy

Our feelings about sexuality can have a torturous range:  shame, vulnerability, dread, uncertainty… and that’s with our clothes still on! 

In Cameryn Moore’s latest piece, Release, she presents a patchwork quilt of characters contending with the vulnerabilities of sexual identity.  The result: a moving and intimate piece about the trials of intimacy.

After a bit of a drawn-out, sleepy opening, Release launches into six monologues, from an array of characters of different genders and sexual orientations, all seeking or discovering some form of release.  A shy lesbian from the mid-west waits for her more brazen lover outside a sex shop in NYC; a drunken, middle-aged woman soaks up the liberating energies of Mardi Gras; a man transitioning to a woman seeks solace in a random conversation with a stranger; a ‘big girl’ recounts losing her virginity to an older man with a fat fetish.

Moore’s writing is textured and honest.

Moore is a Fringe and touring veteran, and her theatre work, devoted to “sex and kink-positive solo shows,” is largely inspired by her experiences as a phone sex worker.  Her ease and expertise with her subject matter are clear and impressive.  As a performer, Moore is quietly engaging and reveals deep compassion for the beautiful doubts of wrestling souls. Through varied accents and attitudes, she creates nice distinctions among her characters, and shows strong commitment to each.

The monologues themselves are touching, nicely detailed, and not overly-written (unlike the promotional blurb for the show which is unnecessarily wordy and actually obscures the real charms of this piece).  Perhaps ironically, given the play’s title, the monologues gain their poignancy through their sense of restraint. Moore’s writing is textured and honest.

Release’s most compelling moments expose sexuality as the complex, paradoxical, confusing mess that it is.  A man who’s discovered S/M porn protests that he could never treat a woman ‘like that,’ but still claims that he wants to. A man who likes to wear diapers suggests that the fetish means nothing to him and everything at the same time. 

Director Tanner Harvey’s staging of the piece is close to bare bones, but not quite, stylistically landing it in a bit of an awkward middle-zone.  A greater leap in either direction – stripping everything right back, or else fleshing it out more – might give the piece a clearer aesthetic.  As with any series of monologues, even ones linked by theme, attention to the entity, the whole of the thing, is always a concern; Release feels like it could still find some galvanizing forces to increase its gestalt factor.

Like window shoppers, mentioned twice in Moore’s piece, we watch Release and gain glimpses into worlds perhaps quite different from our own. But seeing others struggle in the purgatory between repression and release, we also can’t help but wonder about our own dormant longings or unspoken needs.  

Go see Release; it will quietly creep up on you. In the most oddly comforting way.

Release runs to April 13

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