Being too involved in writing theatre, I haven't had the time to see and review much theatre this season. But, on a Sunday evening I was inadvertently invited to see a play. It was a conventional two act play with a slow first act, a better second and a clever plot twist at the end. The bulk of the actors were very good, but the leading man was not convincing as the manipulative, sexy, heterosexual he was supposed to be and this 2 hours and forty minutes of theatre turned out to be insipid, flat and unmoving. Seeing this piece so late in its run I decided not to write a review. Little did I know that the theatrical event I witnessed after the show would be something I simply had to write about.
We were invited to see "an event" at Fluid Nightclub, a mere two blocks from the theatre on South Street. On Sunday nights D.J. Psyd Delicious presents a Dance Party with an Amateur Go Go Night. But this evening there was to be a special S & M presentation. Having just written a piece on Domestic Abuse, my curiosity was aroused. Perhaps that isn't the right word -- but I'm sure that's why within an hour after our arrival the empty nightclub became completely packed.
Getting into the club was not easy, there was a cover charge and our bags were thoroughly searched as a very large and menacing looking bouncer ran a rod like metal detector up and down people's bodies. He even patted down my large, male companion, but in a burst of sexism or gentlemanly courtesy he allowed me to pass without checking for any weapons on my immediate person. (Most probably because I'm small, wasn't wearing any S & M regalia and didn't present a physically threatening appearance. Little did he know that I had my pen.)
We walked up a large, wide, circuitous staircase that fed us onto the main dance floor where the music was already pulsating. It was empty save for two people dressed in black who were fiddling with long silver chains which were the suspension system for a giant wooden cross. Yes, this was "the act" tonight. There was to be a crucifixion. We passed the main playing area and walked towards the bar. It looked alive -- like a giant lizard or snake -- green, curvaceous and scaled. Long globular lamps hung from the ceiling -- like the drippings from a cave. Out waitress came to the table, an austere wisp in black led by her exposed little belly button. The music pulsed louder as first a female clad in black and silver danced on a ledge followed by a male dancer. They both seemed to be wearing a lot of clothing for Go-Go dancers. People clad in leather, silver, plastic and metal began to arrive and fishnets seemed to be de rigeur. Alas, I was decidedly underdressed. But a very nice Oriental man came by and lent me his hot pink boa. He was an economist. He said he was doing research.
After two Margaritas, a young man dressed in black came to our table. Yes, the man who was adjusting the chains. He was introduced to us as the man that built the cross. I asked him if he was a set designer and he said no, that he built bondage furniture. "Ah, a niche industry," I said. I asked him why there was a need for bondage furniture and he told me that it was necessary so that partners could sit in the correct positions for certain sexual acts. "You see," he went on, "There's a certain chair for oral sex so that the legs are spread just the right way. You like to sit up for oral sex, right?" he asked. I told him I preferred to lay down. "Do you like to lay face up or face down?" he persisted. I told him face up. Apparently he didn't have a piece of furniture for that. I told him that I adored feeling free. Apparently he didn't have an answer for that. The place was now filled to bursting, the boa was making me overheated and the time for the event was drawing near. People pushed their way towards the dance floor and I was thrust up to the front where I perched myself on a ledge.
Finally, the girl to be crucified emerged. She looked in her late twenties and she was neither plain nor beautiful. She had short dark hair and wore a pinkish orange see through plastic top and bottom. It fit her like a 1940s bathing suit exposing no cleavage and made her look as if she was wrapped in heavy cellophane To me the outfit was not especially erotic. She wore no shoes and her only adornment seemed to be a tiny silver piercing on her eyebrow which shone under the lights. A techno version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" now boomed through the club.
Slowly, methodically and with great care a man dressed in a priest's collar and the bondage furniture man began to wrap large white silk cords around her two arms tying her to the cross. A woman, also clad in black tied the girl's waist and hips with the same long silken cording. This process took a long time and throughout, the girl's expression remained, well, expressionless. She never looked at the crowd and only occasionally did a smile fleetingly cross her lips. She didn't seem to be there for the crowd but for her own secret purpose. If truth be told, she looked a little wary. Perhaps she was wondering if the silver chain which held the cross up and which would suspend it from the ceiling would hold. When at last her ropes were secure the man dressed as the priest started to cover her torso in Saran wrap. Presumably this was so she would not slip off the highly polished wooden surface -- but I immediately had other images.
Throughout the procedure I watched, detached, in a sort of state of stunned numbness. I am not a religious person, and though born a Catholic, the mocking of Calvary did not insult me. But when at last they began to suspend her -- I could not feel detached. I felt ultimately connected. The man dressed as a priest pulled on a rope which was straining on the silver chains. The huge oak cross moved slightly, hesitantly. He pulled again and it swung up so that the girl's head and feet were now parallel with the floor. Her body drooped slightly forward. She was suspended and hanging as if in a Salvador Dali painting. Suddenly, I felt I was watching not just a woman being bound -- but all women -- the essence of woman -- being bound and hung up for observation like a piece of meat. And unexpectedly, I burst into tears. But you can't cry for long in a disco and so my momentary catharsis was quickly wiped away as I desperately searched for the man I came with, saw him, almost fell down the steps as I reached him and tore him away from his drink and the bar and the woman still suspended from the ceiling. People were now clapping and taking pictures and for all I know the girl is still hanging there -- emotionless, expressionless -- in a sense already dead.
I don't know what the creators of this event wanted me to feel. Arousal? Fear? Comic relief? Revulsion? Outrage? But they were successful. I felt something. (Which is more than I can say for the creators of the play I saw earlier in the evening.) But I'm still trying to piece together what that something was. My only thought is -- is this what America -- land of the free -- has come to? Here our women are free -- but we can only think of ways in which we can bind them, subjugate them, torture them, exhibit them? All over the world women are fighting for their freedom and trying to "off the veil" and here we are so damned bored that we need to explore ways we can get back under it.
Now you're going to say, Well, to each his own, this was after all S & M Night. What did you expect? That is the point. I didn't know what to expect nor how it would affect me. As much as I personally hated what they were doing -- disco theatre is obviously alive and well and like the Murder Mystery phenomenon (we Americans do have a fascination with violence, let's face it) should not be dismissed by theatrical gurus. After all it was a theatrical piece and it did make me experience something -- isn't that what theatre is supposed to be?
Reporting from the World Café of Guerilla Disco Theatre -- I am a camera.
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