STRIPPED is the story of a relationship between a man and a woman in their early thirties. The play begins with both of them, in their respective bathrooms, getting ready for their first date; a blind date arranged through a newspaper dating page. As they dress, they reflect on their fears, feelings and hopes about their immanent meeting. By the time they meet, we - the audience - know a lot about them which has built anticipation for what is to come. It clearly isn't going to be an easy evening.
At last they meet. Initially all seems promising but very soon there is a revelation that throws the date into turmoil. Yet despite the bruising, or maybe because of the bruising, they meet again and a relationship begins. The rest of the play is a very open and frank exploration of how they relate to each other, how their pasts invade their attempts to start afresh, how the new narratives they construct together free and imprison them and finally, despite fighting so hard for a future, one of them cannot see a way to continue the fight.
The central device that enables us to have such an insight into what they are feeling is the use of poetic monologues through which both characters directly address the audience. The poetry is not in any way abstract and indeed the audience do not necessarily experience it as poetry ... there is some rhyme and the language falls into a variety of rhythms, but the verse facilitates a lot of humour as well as allowing us immediate access to their deepest of feelings.
When the two characters meet they speak in conventional dialogue but still occasionally address the audience. Their directly addressing and involving the audience means we become more than witnesses. We are almost complicit in their thinking.
My experience of watching an audience that is watching STRIPPED is that the play clearly reaches them, moves and provokes them. In the Chicago production I so often saw couples secretly glancing at each other or looking away from each other, or laughing together, or finding each others' hands for reassurance or support as various moments on the stage in some way touched on, or spoke to, their own personal situations.
It is a very explicit play, physically and emotionally, in which the characters, the nature of relationships, and perhaps even ourselves are all stripped, and then examined... with, I hope, openness, compassion and humour.
Written by Stephen Clark
Directed by Monika Gossmann
Performed by Sara Fay George and Timothy Hopfner
Photography by Jean Marc Caracci
Visual Design by Claudia Maneka Maharaj
The Tank @ 46th Street (View)
151 W. 46th St., 8th Floor
New York, NY 10036
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