What do you get when you pair a narcissistic, yet emotionally fragile sex addict with her wanna-be-normal husband, whose penchant for punishing women is taken out on his wife’s lover’s girlfriend? The result is something even more bizarre and difficult to follow than that opening sentence. Kaleidoscope Theatre’s “Sex and Violence” did its best to shock the audience into submission, but unfortunately it really just backfired because all of the sex and violence in the world won’t fill in the enormous gaps in the plot, script, acting and character development.
Where do I begin? Let me start by saying that it was extremely difficult to become connected to this piece even early on, because the characters were mostly so unlikable that by a quarter of the way through I realized I had no interest in anything that they did or said. It’s not because most of the characters are evil or bad; some of the most diabolical or horrid wretches of human beings portrayed have been the most fascinating (Iago is the first to come to mind). This apathy was caused by mind-numbing dialogue and lack of character development. Despite most of the characters either being sex maniacs with major hang-ups or people who were completely lying to themselves and sadistic (neither all that unique), they were just not that interesting.
To make matters worse, the amount of gratuitous nudity, sex, and rape that was thrown in for shock-effect value began to have a seriously? quality to it; it went beyond possibly being absurdist theatre and just became absurd. Situations were contrived to keep up parallels between two different scenes going on at the same time, but nothing was really done to further the script and the story. Characters were forced, like square pegs into round holes, to further plot lines that were ridiculous. Not too many people would normally hang around to hear life stories of their assailants when there was a possibility of escape, nor would others be up for a romp of oral sex just after they were raped. Just because characters did in this play does not make them interesting or artistic.
The actors had a great load to carry, but that still doesn’t let them off the hook. Having to listen to Jimmy (Jake Millgard) shout for the majority of the first act about the atrocities committed against him by his wife would not have been so bad if the actor hadn’t been acting to himself most of the time. Despite a talented cast, the play was mired in acting problems. I find this to be as much the director’s fault, for actors cannot watch themselves work, and at some point the director has to step in. One stand-out performance, however, was a monologue by Molly (Kendall Rileigh) at the beginning of the second act. It was delivered simply, truthfully, and was a beacon of pure emotion in real circumstance. Unfortunately it was over too quickly, transporting us back to the rest of the show; and one monologue was really not enough to hold up an entire production.