Saturday, November 3, 2018


Theatre on Fire has a gift for finding cheeky, boisterous British comedies like Lucy Kirkwood’s naughty, savagely funny NSFW (playing @ CWT through Nov. 17th). NOT SAFE FOR WORK debuted in 2012 at the Royal Court Theatre in London and it couldn’t be more current now.

You know, of course, that the British are obsessed with sex… not just those cringe-worthy BENNY HILL comedies. Their daily rags sport titillating front page headlines like “House of Lords entangled in sex ring” and worse on line. It’s the way we’re obsessed with political conspiracies here (although thanks to this president, you’re hard pressed to find a respected daily that doesn’t reference his sexual assaults). We’re at last becoming British! Two wars couldn’t do it but this pathological narcissist has accomplished it without even trying.

Here’s the set-up for NSFW. A British version of PENTHOUSE named DOGHOUSE may have published something clearly illegal and we get to see A) How they try to wriggle out of it and B) How everyone, it seems, will compromise their morals when there’s a substantial payoff involved and C) We get to observe the inner workings of a creepy, sexist enterprise. In point of fact, we see it twice, when C) reverses itself in Act II, with turnabout/fair play except that nothing is fair in Kirkwood’s dog eat dog publishing world.

The dialogue is clever and heady, referencing everything from the latest endocrine research to Nancy Mitford’s code words to identify class. Director Darren Evans’ cast is spot on. The physical comedy is inspired, with one character’s humiliating journey from pillar to post (the hilarious Isaiah Plovnick) to another’s battle to the death (metaphorically speaking, of course) with Spanx. Anna Wintour can’t hold a candle to Becca Lewis’ man-eating managing director.

David Anderson turns in another tour de force (you may recall his dazzling work for Zeitgeist), this time as the sleazy head of DOGHOUSE magazine. He knows every dog whistle in a journalist’s lexicon, reducing each and every one of his employees to rubble. There’s Ivy Ryan in a nicely nuanced performance as his willing assistant (whose face and body language register “unwilling”) and Padraig Sullivan, utterly charming as a poor, benighted, Argyle (sweatered and souled) homebody totally unsuited for this kind of work.

Best of all, to my mind, is Dale J. Young as a wronged citizen, a father who just wants to bounce his little girl on his knee again, a wretched creature with no family now, no hope ahead of him and no way to prevail against Anderson’s cold-hearted, manipulating bastard.