Bedroom Games and War Crimes in Terrifying “Threesome”


Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company
by Yussef El Guindi
Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques

April 8-May 7, 2016
Chelsea Theatre Works
189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea.
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Review by Gillian Daniels

(Chelsea, MA) Leila (Alison Meirowitz McCarthy) and Rashid (Mauro Canepa) are introduced to the audience in their pajamas as self-styled intellectuals, struggling to be distant from their emotions. They’re Egyptian-Americans who open the play conversing like an editorial on gender politics, feminism, and cultural differences. Then comes in Doug (Geoff Van Wyck), the photographer they have invited into their bedroom for a sexual adventure. He’s blunt, cheerful, and thoroughly naked. He is the chaotic element that opens them up to the insecurities that run deep through their relationship. His attitudes don’t represent some enlightened, Western view as a cure-all to their squeamishness, however. No, Doug has his own insecurities he’s bringing in, too. What begins as an adult comic drama ends as a dark exploration of the political and personal.

It’s a powerful story. The first half of the play is an awkward sex comedy, disarming though not my favorite. It’s certainly cringe-inducing regarding the characters’ pig-headedness. The wounded people on-stage, however, are certainly genuine in their hesitance and desires, a culture clash of values that takes on a very different tone by the play’s end. When the bedroom is left behind, the story addresses Egyptian politics and “orientalist fantasies.” I was deeply affected by the candor after the intermission. It’s emotionally honest about the pain and mistakes of its three main characters.

Leila’s difficulties are particularly acute regarding her relationships with men, Egyptian and American. She scorns the idea that men have a more difficult time with body issues than women but is unable to deny Rashid’s rampant insecurities. She works to control her sexuality and destiny while refusing to unpack some of her darker secrets. She is not a damsel that needs to be saved but there is a torment she refuses to name.

The kind of feminism that’s geared toward, and has been developed by, Americans and Europeans, once instilled in me a sense that liberal sexual politics could be the international cure-all for women in other countries in very different situations. But cure-alls cure nothing. The play addresses this sort of creepy saviorism with gusto, the devaluing of women and fetishism of sex that isn’t unique to Egypt or America.

The play serves as a reminder of self-examination, whether personal or political. It’s clear from the first moment that Leila and Rashid are far from secure enough in their relationship to be indulging in the titular fantasy. As shaky as their bonds may be, introducing a corn fed, oblivious white American into the mix, a biting bit of commentary, isn’t going to make anything better. No one can save anyone here but themselves.

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