Assistant A&E Editor
Drug addiction, homosexuality, semi-poverty, nudity and sexual abuse are all rolled up in one emotionally drenched, mind-numbing play. You’re wondering where to get your dose of exaggerated reality? The Bailiwick Repertory, 1229 W. Belmont, is where to find the appropriately titled “Shopping and Fucking.”
This intense emotional dose of raw British theater, directed by Jeremy Cohen, is only in its second U.S. production. It opened in 1996 at the Royal Court in London and was a huge success. It closes its Chicago run Oct. 11th, so get on the ball and check this controversial performance out!
“Shopping and Fucking” is an interesting and fulfilling mix of dark satirical comedy and sincere drama. It’s set in London in a cluttered, run down apartment occupied by three of the most needy and confused characters I have ever seen. Lulu, played by Meredith Zinner, is an aspiring actress. In her quest for success she runs into an “opportunity” to prove herself that turns deadly. She and her homosexual roommate Robbie, played by Joseph Foust, lose $3,000 of drugs and wind at the end of a receiver working phone sex in order to stay alive.
Running alongside Robbie and Lulu’s quest for cash is their hot-and-cold ferocious relationship fueled by drug addiction and sexual abuse. Danny Belrose, who graduated from Columbia College last year, plays Gary, a 14-year-old sexually abused hustler searching for a rich bloke to take him away. The third roommate, Mark (played by Michael Szeles), sort of licks his way into a relationship with Gary that sends them on a role playing, highly graphic sexual escapade.
In the middle of all this emotional madness stands twisted yet moral character Brian, who gets them into the drug fiasco in the beginning but kicks them into reality and responsibility in the end.
Brian sets the limits and serves as a pseudo-parent to these abandoned youths. With his toilet-training techniques mixed with humility and domination, he manages to bring hope of survival back into their emotionally disadvantaged hearts. With advice like “toilet paper is for wiping your arse” and “a handkerchief is for wiping your tears,” somehow Brian manages to get through. Don’t ask, just see.
Jeff Ginsberg, who plays the dominant character Brian, is a faculty member at Columbia College. He has spent ten years teaching in the theater department and continues to direct, act and freelance. Ginsberg’s performance in “Shopping and Fucking” is his first in four years.
“Acting shouldn’t just be emotional vomit. As a teacher of acting I relish that kind of raw, in-
your-face emotionalism,” says Ginsberg. “The honesty that stems from the script creates a very raw and audacious feel. Great theater reflects society, and “Shopping and Fucking” focuses on a despair about a certain strata of lost young people, not just in Britain but in all of Western Culture,” according to Ginsberg.
This primitive roar of a script will leave you with the satisfaction of experiencing strong work. The roles are rich with emotion and feeling, so much that I felt argumentatively exhausted after the performance. The actors seemed committed to and not afraid of their characters.
The play has been compared to “Rent” and the brilliant “Trainspotting.” “Rent” seemed a bit more objectifying and “Train spotting” a bit less human. Shopping and Fucking was a more realistic in between. The depth and bleakness of this play may haunt some, but if taken as an honest dose of realistic theater you can get past the controversial content and identify with the need and fear of the characters. This is definitely a must see! Tickets are $20 for Thursday and Sunday nights and $25 for Friday and Saturday nights. So get down to the Bailiwick and pick up some tickets before it’s too late!