Prurience: A Review
An old woman sits quietly in a chair. Her chair is one of many in a circle. She sits amongst a group of fellow addicts that are in need of confession. Admissions and revelations begin spewing forth until she decides it’s her turn. She then tells the story of a date she had when she was a young woman. Her date had her meet him in New York’s Times Square. He began by touring her about the then seedy stretch of strip joints and porn theaters. She’s slightly offended but can’t help to be a bit turned on. The young man convinces her to step inside one of those porn theaters to experience her first pornographic film. Lo and behold the man she’s with is starring in the film. Afterwards they sleep together, fall in love, and then she decides to move in with him.
It’s an intriguing story. What makes it intriguing isn’t the content of the story. It’s that one is wondering throughout the lurid revelation whether the old woman is telling the truth or whether she’s one of the many actors sitting in a circle at the Guggenheim Museum’s restaurant The Wright. They’re all playing a part in an experimental immersive theatrical production produced by Works & Process at the Guggenheim. Prurience is an almost two-hour long group therapy session for porn addicts and you’re invited along for the fun. That is if paying good hard-earned money to sit through an almost two-hour long group therapy session for porn addicts is your idea of fun.
The Prurience Method is a supposed modern-day bastardized self-help Masters and Johnson for porno addicts. They hold regular weekly meetings were everyone grabs a chair, sits in a circle, and shares. The annoying, pony tailed, logo baseball cap wearing host, who feigns being late like he always is, makes his introduction and lays out the rules. Have some tea and cookies. Sing the indoctrination song. Lots of greet your neighbor and acknowledge each other’s presence. Collaborate with others in the word play games. Put post it notes with helpful thoughts on the feedback tree. Confess your addiction but don’t demand results. Watch the video tape of founder and former porn star, producer, and director Amelia Atkins.
This is all geared to unlocking your memories, desires, and need to reveal your overt love of porn. This is all meant to be both satire and drama and Prurience is not always successful at either. Created and written by British performance artist, and the evenings host, Christopher Green, and directed along with his co-director Holly Race Roughan, Prurience presents an evening of both performers and perhaps audience members revealing their intimate sexual secrets. Some actors are better at this than others. Some audience members are actors that are not. Without a program there’s no way of knowing who the players are as story after story are told. At the end of the performance piece nine actors behave as if they’re the phonies but this may be an illusion as well because it felt like more actors were involved in attempting the illusion.
People have an inherent psychological need to follow and the creators take advantage of that but the problem with Prurience is that it cannot just be experienced. Prurience insists that you believe. Prurience insists that you participate. Oddly enough there’s no room for the voyeur here because once you just observe you can clearly see the cracks in the flimsy façade. The structure and illusion doesn't always hold. It's not that the subject matter is uncomfortable. It's that the presentation of it is awkward and annoying in its lack of truth. The sad punchline is that no one gets any help. In that way there is no drama. Only emotional presentation. There are confessions but no conclusions.
Like a bad overlong sketch with no ending in sight the session quickly devolves into an overlong, overlapping, extremely grating shouting match which we’re supposed to believe causes an abrupt end to the fake festivities. This then requires an actual intervention. Even that doesn’t play well. What happens next to wrap up this circle jerk is so absurd that its best left to those who are willing to endure the Prurience method and experience the closing disco lit musical number. Suffice it to say the actual method here is in and of itself a confused attempt to entertain but ultimately proves flacid.
The Wright Restaurant 1071 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10128 https://www.guggenheim.org/event/prurience (212) 423-3575 March 21 – 31, 2018 $45
From an original post on TheaterScene.