Off-Broadway Review: “The Sensuality Party” at the New Group at Baruch College

May 16, 2016 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Review: “The Sensuality Party” at the New Group at Baruch College (Closed Friday May 13, 2016)
By Justin Kuritzkes
Directed by Danya Taymor
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The main issue with playwright Justin Kuritzkes’ new work “The Sensuality Party” is that it seriously lacks sensuality and it certainly is no party. In fact, perhaps the young author needs to get out more, see a few things, interact and experience what might be happening since the earlier sexual revolution that he (through Speaker’s words) actually claims to not understand. If the “F” word is severely overused in this script for shock value, then New Yorkers experience free shock treatment while walking down the street every day. We have all been desensitized to vulgar language long ago. A mantra of the sixties was “relax, it’s just vibrations of the vocal chords.” Mr. Kuritzkes’ script comes off as bad porn, neither relevant, ground breaking, nor sensual. The writing is less than imaginative. The presentation is more storytelling than actual events and lacks any dramatic arc or character development. In this case, anyone could be telling the story or reciting a memory play. Possibly a better option would have been giving each patron headsets and a private room where they could listen so they could react in any self-serving way they chose.

What the performance I attended accomplished was to thoroughly disengage theatergoers from the material. I watched several restless audience members staring at watches, sleeping, plugging their ears with their fingers, texting, and even reading from their iPhones. Those attempting to involve themselves could be seen stretching their necks to get a glimpse of the actor speaking only to be disappointed and disinterested a minute later, owing to the fact that there was really nothing to see. An uncomfortable forced laughter could be intermittently heard as the audience nervously tried to retrieve some kind of humor from the pretentious script.

If theater as we know it is a collaboration of different theatrical skills to produce the finished dramatic product, then the importance of scenic, sound and lighting design as well as other theatrical elements should not be eliminated – especially when a script cannot stand on its own merit. This is not a site specific production by any stretch of the imagination. Any descriptive action takes place in a dorm room or in the actor’s mind.

If the point of the playwright is to examine and show how desensitized his present generation might be, it is certainly redundant. All one has to do is walk down the street, watch how members of that generation often behave in coffee shops, see how they seem incapable of connecting other than texting, add a hefty dose of narcissism, bad manners, and a diffused system of values and there you have it. You don’t need a sensuality party to realize how cold, self-indulgent, indifferent, and out of touch much of the Millennial generation appears to be. Simply put this play is 95 minutes too long.