Bleach is an extended monologue by Dan Ireland-Reeves, presented by Spin Cycle. It presents a likable male prostitute, Tyler, addressing us, and it’s set in his apartment. It’s been performed in Europe, proscenium-style. Here in New York, director Zack Carey immerses the audience in Tyler’s world, inviting us into Tyler’s apartment. Very smart indeed, well suited to the material. Tyler’s home radiates poverty, but more strongly neglect.
Tyler lives in a dumpy basement apartment in Brooklyn, and indeed we travel to a dumpy basement apartment in Brooklyn to see the show, and we spend its 75-minute duration sitting in Tyler’s bedroom. Instead of a lobby, we enter a small, dumpy kitchen; the bedroom, the performance space, is in the next room.
Joyce Hahn’s set is terrific: a bed; a few arm chairs and sofas for the audience. We the audience totaled six the night I attended; it doesn’t look like the room could sit more than eight of us. The walls are brick or stone, the stone painted white like the apartment of Tyler’s wealthy client. Half the floor is linoleum, and there’s a cheap, ornate coffee table. The window looks out on the hallway in the basement, with its stone walls: there’s no escape from this life. Handcuffs and a dog collar are hanging from the night table: there’s no escape from this job.
Much to the company’s credit, they’ve declined to provide a program. This is a sort of meta-naturalism.
The script at first seems predictable to an experienced NYC fringe audience, but it turns into something more interesting and creative than we expect. We learn about a horrendous event - Tyler calls it “the event” - and from then on we’re in a complex psychological space. The issue is Tyler’s reaction to the event, and it’s the reaction of a rent boy: “I’m so disconnected from it all that it doesn’t matter.”
Mr. Carey’s direction is delicate, meticulous, never heavy-handed or obvious. The play, the night I saw it, is performed by Eamon Yates. He is never false (in this proximity, a falsehood would be fatal). He has great relaxation and concentration - and bravery to look us in the eye sitting next to us. However, he does not have emotional range or depth. He is perhaps too young.
Of course, Mr. Ireland-Reeves does have Tyler tell us, at the play’s end, “I’m an object - I don’t have to feel,” so the actor doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to show us Tyler’s inner life. But still, calm and intact should not play the same as calm and broken. The performance needs to be layered. Tyler has a couple of moments that could be revelatory. Early in the play, he tells us that he’s taking viagra with him to a client’s home “to make me hard”; late in the show, he tells us that he’s packing it “because you disgust me.” Mr. Carey has not led his actor to make the most of this.
Be that as it may. Bleach is first-rate cutting edge theater. I’ve never felt closer to a character than this hyper-intimate evening. Well done!