The pre-show soundtrack bears a distant resemblance to the theme of Friends. And like that hit TV sitcom, Erica Smith’s charming new play fiveplay takes place in the shared home of an assortment of idiosyncratic personalities in their twenties. But there the resemblance ends, because the roommates of fiveplay are all polyamorous, which one of them helpfully explains early on, in a fun scene teaching the audience:
AVERY: Polyamory is involved in multiple committed relationships at once with – and this is the most important part – the full consent of everyone involved. Also called a form of ethical non-monogamy. I will repeat that: ETHICAL non-monogamy.
One day, a smart TV producer will notice that the zeitgeist is ready for a sitcom based on this provocative premise – with the heteronormative genre binary on the wane, it’s only a matter of time. Maybe this polyamorous reinvention of Friends will be inspired by Fiveplay, who knows? In the meantime, there are two more chances next weekend to experience this inviting spectacle of possibilities for character-driven polyamorous game-making.
The difficulty, as I discovered early in production on Coil Project graciously directed by Sean Butler, is that the cast of characters is polyamorous, so keeping track of who has relationships with whom can get messy. So you’ll thank me, when you see Fiveplay, for this handy color-coded chart.
One of the most interesting things about fiveplay is he not. There’s plenty of hugging, kissing, and other occasional affection appropriate to the situation and plenty of banter about an upcoming special event (a homemade orgy they call Fucksgiving), but no clothes come off. , there are no sexual acts and no one objectifies the body. -judge someone else. The actors who play the five polyamorous characters very well – Brianna Goode (as Ray), Eric Jones (as Sawyer), Michael Silver (as Monty), Christine Smith (as Avery) and Rebecca Rose Vassy (a strong will stand out as Emerson ) — and the only uncoupled character – Rocky Nunzio (as Keegan) – experiences the moment in their interrelationship as if nothing at all out of the ordinary is happening. It’s just their chosen everyday family, they’re pleasantly comfortable there, and the eroticism between them can be sweetly funny, like in this exploratory exchange (not yet sketched above):
RAY: You are a good person.
SAWYER: Oh. Thank you.
RAY: You…are…also…a…very…cunning person.
SAWYER: I, uh, I guess I’m fine—
RAY: I have something for you.
SAWYER: OK. What is that?
RAY: What is that ?
SAWYER: The thing you have for me.
RAY: Oh damn it. Uh.
crush. For. On you. I have. Yes. I have a crush on you.
Many of your recent comments suddenly make a lot more sense.
When, during the play, dramatic conflicts arise, it is never about jealousy or betrayal or any stereotypes one might have about these people’s multiple sexual partnerships. Instead, it’s tensions and inroads from the outside — like a suspected haunted antiquity, the brief news of a beloved grandfather’s death, off-stage parental antipathy — all episodes that, while not particularly earth-shattering, nevertheless illustrate how the premise of polyamorous housemates could well be deployed in a pilot.
Sean Butler’s sound design effectively suggests a rainstorm during a sequence where a ghost may or may not be present, at which point Jason Aufdem-Brinke’s lighting design also backlights everyone in an eerie blue. The uncredited set looks credibly inhabited – a worn couch, mismatched tables and chairs, pride flags and queer bric-a-brac all around. The uncredited costumes have the compelling specificity one would expect from the hand of an intuitive designer, but likely stem from the director and cast’s insight into the characters.
High budget and polite, this production is not. But the forward-looking creative concept, intriguing character delineations, and vision of ethical erotica make fiveplay well worth a trip to the black box at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.
Duration: 80 minutes, without intermission.
fiveplay April 8-9, 15-16, and 22-23, 2022 presented by the Coil Project performing in the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop Black Box Theater at 545 7th Street SE, Washington, DC. All shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets ($20) can be purchased in line.
COVID safety: Capital Hill Workshop requires members of the public to remain masked (N95 or KN95) in public areas of the building. CHAW’s full COVID-19 safety protocols are here.
Written by Erica Smith
Directed by Sean Butler
Produced by Rebecca Fischler
Brianna Goode as Ray
Eric Jones as Sawyer
Rocky Nunzio as Keegan
Michael Silver as Monty
Christine Smith as Avery
Rebecca Rose Vassy as Emerson
Sound design by Sean Butler
Lighting design by Jason Aufdem-Brinke
The Coil Project will open ‘Fiveplay’ on modern polyamory (new stories)