Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Village Bike ***

This British import, now in previews in an MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, marks two auspicious debuts — the American debut of up-and-coming English playwright Penelope Skinner and the stage debut of indie film actress Greta Gerwig. Both firsts are cause for celebration. Skinner’s play provides a fresh look at female libido, the confines of English country life and the uses and abuses of porn. Gerwig is superb as Becky, an English teacher, newly pregnant, starting the summer holiday with environmentally correct hubby John (the fine Jason Butler Harner) in their just-acquired country home. In a twist on convention, it is the pregnant wife who becomes sexually needy, while her baby-obsessed husband loses all interest in sex. Becky cannot tempt him even with favorites from their large collection of porn films. Skinner teases us with classic porn cliches — the plumber Mike (Max Baker) who arrives to fix Becky’s pipes and an eccentric neighbor Oliver (Scott Shepherd) who delivers the used bike Becky has purchased from him dressed as a highwayman in tight britches. Becky dreads the visits of Jenny (Cara Seymour), a well-meaning but desperately lonely neighbor whose husband is rarely around and who is bullied by her children. Becky’s bicycle gives her the freedom to pursue an affair that begins as a carefree exploration of porn-inspired fantasies but soon turns into obsession and desperation. We also meet Alice (Lucy Owen), Oliver’s wife, in a part so small that it could easily have been dispensed with. For me, the play did not provide a satisfactory resolution, but it kept me engrossed almost to the end. It could benefit from a slight trim. In a uniformly strong cast, the American actors handled their English accents with assurance. The cottage setting by Laura Jellinek was so thoroughly reconfigured during intermission that the stage crew got a round of applause. It may have been a technical triumph, but I thought it was an inelegant solution to the changes of location. Clint Ramos’ costumes were excellent. Ubiquitous director Sam Gold handles the material well. Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including intermission. NOTE: In British slang, "village bike" means "local slut."

1 comment:

Pen Gwyn said...

I found this play to be borderline pornographic with no redeeming social value. I'm puzzled by all the positive reviews and imagine this must be a case of different spokes for different folks!