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Donkey Punch

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Donkey Punch
Cleo Gray & Lauren Dortch-Crozier.
Photo by Hunter Canning.
Amidst the continuing battle over reproductive rights, the fight for equal pay and respect for women in the workplace, and Rush Limbaugh’s diatribes against “feminazis,” it is pretty evident that the struggle for gender equity is far from over. Playwright Micheline Auger has jumped with both feet into the fray with her fierce and biting satire Donkey Punch, now on view at the SoHo Playhouse, which asks what it truly means for a woman to be liberated and fulfilled — and at what cost.

Donkey Punch, a production of the Ivy Theatre Company, combines raunchy gal pal humor (the title refers to a violent act that is meant to enhance the sexual experience of the “top” during anal sex) with an examination of self-actualization at the borders of friendship and the relationships between women and men.

At center is Kareena (a complicated personality boldly played by Cleo Gray), who has accomplished many of the goals she believes ought to define her as a modern woman. She has found success in her career, has a lovely apartment, and has enjoyed a rich and varied sex life — and, most importantly, all of these are in her control. For now, she is trying out a monogamous relationship with her current nice-guy boyfriend Teddy (Michael Drew), though she is clearly uncomfortable with the ties of domesticity that seem to go with it. Her counterpart is Sam (Lauren Dortch-Crozer), whom Kareena has set up with Kyle (Jon McCormick), a maker of “soft core horror porn,” in the hope of breaking her out of her demureness.

During the course of the 90-minute play, Ms. Auger draws complex portraits of all four of her characters as confused souls who fail to understand each other or themselves (there is much talk about New Yorkers and their therapists). Sam breaks out indeed, opting for a makeover to her hair, her breasts, and her personality, as Kyle pulls her into his world by selling it as a run-of-the-mill mainstream business (“I think I saw ‘Deep Throat’ on Nickelodeon at like noon yesterday,” he says). Kareena, on the other hand, seems heading along a path to self-destruction, while nice-guy Teddy ultimately shows a darker side to his personality.

Donkey Punch is not always easy to watch. There are some scenes depicting sexual activity that make voyeurs of the audience, and the characters themselves are not always the sort of company you would want to spend a lot of time with. But all four actors, well directed by Audrey Alford, are definitely committed to plumbing the depths of their characters, flaws and all, and the writing is sharp as a tack, making for a most provocative evening of theater.


Donkey Punch
Through August 31
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (6th Ave & Varick / 7th Avenue)
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SohoPlayhouse.com