Writer: S. Asher Gelman
Director: Steven Kunis
Reviewer: Miriam Sallon
With a poster of three men in their underwear, one would assume (hope) there would be at least a little salaciousness involved, but so often we are presented with only talk of such behaviour and must, unhappily, use our imaginations. Not so with Afterglow, directed by Steven Kunis. As the lights dim, the small NY apartment, seemingly empty, is suddenly a hub of action, with three very naked men, fitting like a puzzle, reaching a crescendo and collapsing on the bed in cheerful exhaustion.
Josh (Adi Chugh) and Alex (Peter McPherson) are in a loving, open marriage. They invite Darius (Benjamin Aluwihare) for a threesome which, afterwards, everyone agrees went very well, as they towel themselves down and spray-clean surfaces inevitably covered in lube.
Josh and Darius continue to see each other- which, Alex claims, is fine by him. But their prolonged contact inevitably leads to a much deeper and more meaningful connection than anyone planned, reclassifying Josh and Alex’s marriage, from open to polyamorous.
There is a marked lack of real exploration in the arts on the topic of non-monogamous relationships, which is surprising considering the increasing popularity of the concept. Perhaps the plot is a little thin, but the relationships between each character and the feeling of authenticity in the dialogue is enough to consider this a kind of tableau-analysis of what is likely an increasingly common scenario in contemporary culture.
There is a lot- a lot– of nakedness and the on-stage shower, whilst adding a pleasing new texture to the design (Libby Todd), also ramps up the raunchiness ten-fold. But the ordinariness of so much of the dialogue balances the eroticism, placing it amongst talk of work, or baby names, or family. The conversation about relationships, and open relationships, in particular, is, unsurprisingly, an ongoing theme. But whilst the characters make some valid theoretical points about trusting one another, enjoying the relief of someone else carrying some of the emotional burden in their relationship, their behaviour betrays them. Josh and Darius go from kissing openly in front of Alex to jumping apart if he walks in. They know that they’ve crossed a line, despite the difficulty in knowing exactly where that line is.
The genuine affection and sexual chemistry between the cast members is intoxicatingly palpable. The minutia of their behaviour is impressively expressive, as we witness the growing complexities of each of their associations with one another, rather than just relying on the dialogue to spell it out.
Afterglow is an honest meditation on the messiness of modern relationships; it’s sharp, heartfelt and outrageously sexy. The problem with there being a lack of comparable stories on the same topic is that this story becomes a tent-pole for the discussion. But how much of such a complicated situation can you really fit in to a 75-minute play, with so many variables to consider. Gelman has done well to highlight one particular scenario. Let this be an invitation for others to continue and expand the conversation.
Runs until 24 November 2019 | Image: Darren Bell