Red lights hit the stage as senior Chloe Luetkemeyer gave voice to and pantomimed, with freshman Padraig Sullivan, the narrative of a scene of feminist erotica being written by a woman sitting at her desk, Macbook aglow.
“She was hot, she was throbbing and she was in control!” the voice-over proclaimed, going on before the woman, Charlene (senior Rose Dolezal) is interrupted by teenaged daughter Leslie Ann (sophomore Rosie Castle) asking for the whereabouts of her mascara.
This was the opening of Paula Vogel’s “Hot ‘n’ Throbbing,” directed by junior Kathleen Gullion on its opening night in Studio Theater. The play will continue to run on Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Gullion chose this play for her fully teched “extended one-act” because, as a woman and feminist, she was “devoted” to the idea of putting on a show by a female feminist playwright, in part because of the issues of representation she sees in theater.
“There are a lot for plays from this homogeneous group of white, privileged men. Of course, throughout history, that’s been about who has power and access to the art space,” she said.
This play tells the story of a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship by divorcing her husband and is attempting to regain control of her life, provide for her children and make a name for herself by writing for a feminist erotica company — as well as what occurs when her ex-husband (junior Andrew Purvis) violates his restraining order and returns after hitting rock bottom.
“This play is really all about the power relationships between men and women,” Gullion said. “Sexual assault and violence against women happens more so in relationships. And I think that it’s a fault of people to assume that violence against women only happens in stranger situations.”
She appreciated that Vogel’s script portrays the charming side of an abuser and that makes it simple for the audience to feel sympathy for the funny, charming Clyde.
“These people that are abusive aren’t just one-dimensional villains. They are three-dimensional and that makes them even more dangerous because you don’t necessarily expect it. I definitely want to show that this abuse can come out of what was a loving relationship,” said Gullion.
Her production also set out to question who becomes “collateral damage” in the male power struggle, whether certain fantasies are innocent or whether they have repercussions, and which is more shocking and upsetting: the domestic abuse or the depictions of the porn.
Discussing the fantasies of the characters that are explored onstage, Castle explained the deceptive power behind these scenes.
“There are so many parts of the show that are so messed up, but they’re really easy to fall into,” she said.
Post-baccalaureate fellow John Budding thought the show in its entirety was “valuable.” “It wasn’t just [the couple fighting]. It brought up a lot of things about masculinity and what men and women should be doing,” he said.
Also in attendance on opening night, costume designer sophomore Carly Berinstein got to see her handiwork come to life on the actors. As an audience member, she described the play as having a strong impact.
“I think it’s important for everyone to grapple with these ideas. It’s tough to talk about,” she said.
Editor’s note: Audience members planning to attend a performance should be advised of possible triggers, including domestic violence and sexual content.