Past Reviews

Off Broadway Reviews


Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Michael Goldstein and Mark McCullough Thomas
Photo by Richard Termine

Giving the benefit of the doubt to David Rhodes is the best I can do with regards to his new play Consent, which just opened at the Black Box at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. To my eye, this ramshackle almost-drama looked to be little more than an excuse for staging (and playing on video) some pretty explicit gay sex and BDSM scenes. Certainly, that the two lead actors, Michael Goldstein and Mark McCullough Thomas, both of whom look like spokesmodels for high-end fitness clubs, spend what seems like half the time clad only in their (skimpy) underwear as they kiss, bang, slap, and, well, do plenty of other things to each other does nothing to lessen this impression.

But there are occasional hints that Rhodes potentially had additional goals in mind. The older of the two men, Ron (Thomas), is a former NFL star in his early 40s who recently left his wife and teenage children so he could explore the sexuality he'd long kept hidden. The younger, Kurt (Goldstein), is a law school student Ron just happened to bump into at the 14th Street subway station. During their time together, enough, um, issues arise to suggest that both men have strained relationships as fathers and sons, and are projecting them onto the other in increasingly bizarre and perhaps disastrous ways. Because Ron not only has a son who's about to graduate high school, but also a tiny nephew (the son of his older sister), there are, as you might imagine, complications.

Or there would be in a richer play. Rhodes, who also directed, has a habit of bringing up plot points and then forgetting about them, so that none of these matters or most others are explored in any real depth. (A sex tape the two make is a fulcrum of tension for some 30 seconds, to give you an idea; though, rest assured, video designer Chelsie McPhilimy gets in plenty of bareback riding and satisfied grimaces in the excerpts we witness.) If not for the lavish, swank loft set by Scott Tedmon-Jones, which John Eckert has lusciously lit, there would be no color here at all, despite the opportunities Rhodes at least didn't entirely delete from the finished script.

Ron's son, Jack (his sister is Jill, for the record), doesn't appear and is hardly mentioned, so concrete parallels are few, and when we meet his mom and Ron's ex-wife, Susie, she's portrayed (by Angela Pierce) as such a needy and emasculating scold that sympathy for her is out of the question. (Although, to be fair, the $10,000-per-month settlement she received in the divorce makes it seem as though she'll be doing all right.) Kurt has secrets, too (they come too late in the play to be reasonably revealed here), that mirror Ron's, but strain credibility even more—it's never made clear why Kurt becomes fixated on Ron when he has, shall we say, better options at his disposal.

The only fleshed-out character is Emily, Ron's sister, who's facing starting over in the face of abandonment much as Ron is, and by linking Emily to Angela as well, Rhodes does provide a critical emotional lifeline for both the people who need it most. That Catherine Curtin tackles the role with the gusto others might, say, Medea, unquestionably helps: She fashions from the part a genuinely compelling figure who's at once loving but lost, struggling to understand the world into which she's been thrust even as it keeps changing around her. So interesting did Curtin make Emily, in fact, I found myself wanting to know the juiciest details about her story and what all made her into such a sad but resilient woman.

Instead, most of the interminable 100-minute running time centers on the men, who spin in self-lacerating circles while trying to find themselves, despite suffering from none of the tangible problems that are taking a wrecking ball to the two women. The performers are vapid, true, and don't progress much from scene to scene, but if the script says, for example, that Kurt needs to be as willing to bring Ron flowers as to choke him with a belt, what options do they have?

If this is supposed to be a real play, it's a terrible one that's redeemed only by Curtin's bringing a flesh-and-blood humanity to writing that's seldom interested in such rarefied things. It's just supposed to get certain demographics' engines running, then, uh, I guess mission accomplished? You could probably do worse in that area. But in every other area you can do much, much better than Consent.

Through June 28
Roundabout Theatre Company Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix

Privacy Policy