As Saucy As Expected - Erotic Crisis at Gorki

When I entered the Gorki Theater on Friday night to see Erotic Crisis, I was surprised by the varied audience trotting up the stairs. People of every age and social status came to see the Gorki-Ensemble’s performance on the pleasure and pain of sex, and all that is hidden behind that term.

With its director, Yael Ronen, known for her 2008 international play Dritte Generation, Erotic Crisis strives for provocation by the use of eccentric clothes and entertaining quarrelling. However, the play delivered more than the obvious, cliché-ridden humour and bare nudity. Rather, it allowed the audience to enter into a conversation on the varied interpretations concerning the complex matters of love and desire, the uncertainties that this entails, and the question of where we belong.

Dimmed lights, a double bed with the couple sleeping at least a meter apart, another couple moaning with pleasure into microphones, and uncomfortable laughter from the audience: the first scene set the mood for the play. It introduced the difference in the four people´s sex lives. One couple positively articulated their desire for each other and the other lacked topics for discussion. The comparison between the absence of sex after having loved each other for years, to a fresher relationship, where the sex life is active, were vividly performed. Love and feeling loved do not necessarily correspond, and moaning with pleasure does not automatically equal pleasurable sex. Everyone who does not want any destroyed illusions should stay at home. The topic of the difference between real and fake, the illusions and expectations that pornography and even our family create, as well as the control that single people obtain and lose, does not come up short in Erotic Crisis, stimulating the audience into questioning the reason for our laughter.                            
The different sexual desires could not have varied more than in the married couples´ cases. From fake breasts, a plastic unicorn head and Jimi Hendix´s Foxy Lady playing on the one side, and a “political fantasy”, passionately performed in Hebrew on the other, the diverse ways of understanding what sexy means were successfully explored.

Most of the humorous scenes were based on the couple´s fighting. In one scene they quarreled over the topic of women’s pleasure.  The bed was used as the central prop, and apart from that, only the woman´s facial expressions – a mixture of pain and pity – while her boyfriend tried to satisfy her under the blankets.

However funny most of the discussions were, they were also quite stereotypical, especially concerning the emotional loads from the female side. Yet the director seemed to be aware of this. The only single character introduced was right at the beginning asked if she was in the right play and whether she was a lesbian. Meanwhile, it was Mareike Beykirch´s role to scare the audience, for she told us that she could hack every phone she wants. Whether this was necessary to show her ability to control everything but her love life or rather served as a misplaced comical act, I am not entirely certain. However, Beykirch´s shift from an intimidating person to that of a completely self-critical one was impressively done.

Something that was not necessary was the two times over performance of Tell me where did you sleep last night. As mellifluous as the voice of Anastasia Gubareva was, the second performance led to an unintended but inevitable comparison between Kurt Cobain and Thomas Wodianka in which the latter certainly cannot win, but should rather stick to his fantastic acting skills.

It was Wodianka´s monologue which took the content of the play to a different level. Dressed in his running clothes and with his phone, which echoed through the theatre hall and served as a prop to signify the rare contact between the couple, the actor sat in front of the pink and green plastic walls that moved throughout the whole performance. The dilemma of love, care, anger and blindness that the colour pink stands for, and green representing freedom and openness as well as envy became even more decisive towards the end of the play and in this very scene. With not more than his facial expressions, the audience was pulled into a swamp of frustration that went beyond the topic of love and sex. Sexual desires were described in such a way that showed the character as wanting to flee from his everyday life and the hierarchies surrounding him. He brilliantly described his desires, not only of sexual nature, but his desire to sleep in his parent’s bed, his desire, for love and peace. It made you laugh first, but think after.

This very seriousness, hidden behind stereotypical wants and jokes about sexual desires, served to see the play as a conscious and self-reflected. Erotic Crisis raises some challenging questions, even in this oh so open-minded and sexually educated city.

‘Erotic Crisis’ will receive its final performance at the Gorki Theatre on 9 June.
Photos: Ute Langkafel MAIFOTO

By Maleen Schwinger

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