Anthony J. Piccione
- New York Theatre Critic
According to statistics, a majority of millennial women have, at some point or another in their lives, received an unsolicited picture of someone’s penis on their phone. It was the frequency of the sending of these pictures, along with the narcissistic misogyny of the men who send them, which inspired "I Didn't Ask For This: A Lifetime of Dick Pics”, a 2016 art gallery filled with one woman’s over 200 unsolicited dick pics, which attracted a great deal of public attention, as one can easily imagine from such a concept. Each of these two realities – both the narcissism of the men sending this unwanted pictures and the public’s never-ending fascination with both the male and female genitalia – are well-reflected in Dick Pix, one of two new plays by Daniel McCoy currently playing at Theaterlab, which revolves around a somewhat similar gallery.
This satirical dramedy tells the story of Calvin, a young artist/photographer who intends to unveil his next modern art project to the world: a gallery filled with pictures of his own penis. At first, the reaction of his publicist/girlfriend, Grace, was imaginably less than thrilled. However, after an accident which leads to photos of Grace’s vagina being leaked on to the Internet, she ends up having a life-changing experience which changes her perspective, and toward the end, Calvin himself feels disillusioned, as despite whatever deeper meaning he may have had in mind for his art project, the public is largely only interested in his work as a form of sexual pleasure.
Under the direction of Heidi Handelsman, the cast proves to be excellent at bringing these characters to life. David Gelles perfectly captures the image of the arrogant douchebag and wannabe artist in the role of Calvin, while Kate Abbruzzese turns in a strong and energetic performance in the role of Grace. In the role of Fyn, the gender fluid art dealer, Bruce Jones delivers a particularly engaging performance which proves to be both funny and poignant, at varying moments of the show. Mrs. Marbleblatt, from the very beginning to the play’s climax, is vigorously portrayed by the charismatic June Ballinger. Finally, Lynne Marie Rosenberg and Erinn Holmes largely provide some nice comic relief as the male art handlers in the gallery.
In terms of the production aspects, the use of projections, as well as the show’s costume design, stand out as being very well-done, in terms of creating the play’s scenery and atmosphere in the fairly small space at Theaterlab. Audience members should be warned in advance that there are indeed some explicit photos of penises that feature prominently in this show, as perhaps can be expected, along with a brief scene which features quick flashes of female nudity, as well as a scene which - while it does involve fake breasts and dildos – stands out more as a scene which may be considered disturbing for its depiction of sexual harassment, and could be particularly triggering for those who’ve dealt directly with sexual assault. Indeed, perhaps my one major complaint was that the actors stopped the show cold before this scene to provide a “trigger warning” to the audience, despite a sign being included outside the theater. So with that in mind, I figured its best for me to provide such a warning myself, so the actors can stay in character.
As potentially provocative as the title may be, audience members should not be quick to dismiss the play for that reason alone. Beneath the innuendo is a rather smart social commentary on the role that self-obsession, ego, and superficiality play in our modern, technology-driven society, one which is worth seeing and thinking about. That, more than anything else I just mentioned in this review, is what really stands out about this play. It’s a potent mix of both humor and darkness, not unlike the society which it seeks to show a reflection of. If you have the chance, be sure to consider seeing this show while you still have the chance, during its last few performances.
“Dick Pix” runs at Theaterlab from July 18th-August 12th. For more information, please visit www.perfectpixplays.com.