Writer: Paul Cameron Hardy
Director: RJ Tolan
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
A trip to Ensemble Studio Theatre can be a lengthy walk from the nearest train, but Youngblood’s current production of Mope makes the slog through the slush absolutely worth it. A hilarious and incisive deconstruction of toxic masculinity via the off-camera life of a low-level porn star, this new play is sidesplittingly funny, until it is decidedly not.
Paul Cameron Hardy’s brilliant script soars in the hands of director RJ Tolan. The world is rich and clear. Characters deep and tangible. The story is gripping and though at a certain point the conclusion begins to feel inevitable, it does not feel predictable. Eric T. Miller shines as Trevor, a miserable, flawed, sexist man that feels entitled simply because he exists. RJ Brown as Shawn and Jennifer Tsay as Alice provide excellent foils to Miller’s performance. The chemistry, timing, and ensemble work is stellar, with jokes about the adult entertainment industry, investment banking, and cultural stereotypes landing flawlessly with each delivery.
This play is visceral and palpable. Feeling like a home, a porn set, a car, and a nightclub, with nothing more than the occasional rotation of a wall, Angelica Borrero-Fortier’s set traverses Los Angeles with ease. John Saultz’s lighting design is dynamic, hitting the right note for every moment. Emily Auciello’s sound design is nothing short of transportive. And Audrey Nauman’s costuming is spot-on.
Mope is a cohesive, compelling, fantastically produced play that uses the adult industry as a fascinating lens to filter the discussion about the flawed model of masculinity and entitlement. It is honest and funny, dark and questioning. It packs a great deal of complexity into ninety minutes without feeling overwrought. This play is definitely one to catch before its short run ends in early February.
Runs until 4 February 2017