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Sunday, March 30, 2021

As intrigued as I was about “Ladies & Gents”, the offbeat theatrical production being staged in Central Park’s public restrooms, I doubted that I’d be able to find a date willing to share the experience.

Well, luckily I did, and we got to see the show a couple of nights ago. And luckily for her — and for me, come to think of it — the bathrooms weren’t nearly as stinky as I imagined they could be.

Neither, for that matter, was the play itself. It had a unique structure: Two acts, which were played out simultaneously in the separate Ladies and Mens “conveniences” (Irish idiom for restrooms). Accordingly, the audience was split into separate halves, which were then filed into each bathroom to watch their particular segment of the story. At intermission, the two groups filed out and then switched restrooms, to see their concluding half of the play (which, given the nature of this narrative, isn’t properly the “second” part).

Just my luck, my date and I were separated into the two separate groups for the duration of this performance. But that actually turned out okay, because:

Given the cramped conditions, audience arrangement took the form of standing up against the walls, forming a rough circle around the “stage” where the actors did their things. It was the ultimate in intimate, and lent a real unnerving feel to the whole show. But it also meant that there was no opportunity for comparing notes with one another, because even the faintest whisper was impossible to disguise. So there would be no advantage to being paired up during the performance. That’s if it would even have been possible: The staff herded us in brusquely (I even said “Gestapo tactics” out loud), and “assigned” us our standing spots without any regard to preference.

And in fact, we ended up having more to compare and contrast about afterward because of this. We realized that we were experiencing the same story but in a different sequence, so we retraced how that affected our perception of the events. It turned out to be not so much, but I’m not sure it would have come so readily to us if we’d been watching the same sequence at the same time.

You’ll notice I’m being very light on the narrative specifics. You could say that I was more captivated by the format then by the creative content itself. The cloak-and-dagger noir setting in 1950s Dublin was satisfying, but nothing groundbreaking. The story moved along at a rapid-fire pace; combined with the staging elements, it just worked.

I’m not sure if I’m waiting for the next toilet-bowl production. My companion came up with the idea — prior to the night’s actual audience separation — of dividing the showgoers according to gender, thereby having all-women attending the Ladies room portion and all-men in the Gents facility. Maybe some enterprising playwright can work on that concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 11:12:11 PM
Category: Creative, Media, New Yorkin'
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2 Feedbacks »
  1. def sounds like an experience, I would have went if I was still in the big apple (i miss it).

    Comment by Tara — 03/31/2008 @ 08:10:01 PM

  2. You should miss the Big Apple! But I’m sure LA has its share of unique creative-cultural spectacles, right?

    Comment by CT — 03/31/2008 @ 11:18:52 PM

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