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Trent Brown, Swayde McCoy, and Julia Henning in Peter Foldy's Penetration at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (photo by Abigail Clark)

Trent Brown, Swayde McCoy, and Julia Henning in Peter Foldy’s Penetration at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (photo by Abigail Clark)


Reviewed by Mayank Keshaviah
Dorie Theater @ The Complex Theatres
Through June 18

Despite a title that promises either emotional or sexual depth, Peter Foldy’s sex comedy rarely probes below the surface. In it, Cody (Trent Brown) and Kyle (Swayde McCoy) are two bros in L.A. who talk the way you would expect two bros in L.A. to talk. Cody, with his choirboy good looks, is keeping himself celibate for his über-Christian fiancée Linda (Bree Wernicke). Cody’s roommate Kyle ribs him for both his prudishness and his politics, while Cody promises Linda over the phone that he’ll vote to “make America great again” (prompting groans from the audience). If my mention of the election day setting seems to come out of nowhere, it’s because it feels equally random in the play. In fact, the show billing itself as being political in any way is misleading.

It is, however, sexual, which we quickly get a taste of when we find “chaste” Cody frequenting an online chat room to “spank the monkey” (the ‘90s called and wants it slang back). The object of Cody’s carnal palmistry is dream girl Amanda (Julia Henning), who performs prestidigitation by appearing in his apartment through “celestial downloading.” Amanda is no happier to be there than Cody is to have her intruding in his life, but when she tries to leave, she finds herself trapped and can’t embark until she helps her host to a deep realization.

That flimsy premise is used to explore Cody’s secret sexual past, Amanda’s lost love, and even Kyle’s insecurities. When the three of them get physically close (in exactly the way you would expect in a sex comedy), Ariel — er, Amanda — is freed from her bondage, and leaves just in time for Linda to arrive and catch Kyle and Cody still naked in bed together. Cody’s got some ‘splaining to do, and his revelations about his past, including the fact that he has an estranged son from a high school tryst, cause Linda to leave him for good. Cody, wanting to be a better man for real (as opposed to in a hypo-Christian way), goes off to find his son.

As with a number of Fringe shows (and theater in general), when the same person writes, directs and produces a play, there is a penchant for blind spots and other such pitfalls of vanity projects. Besides the flimsy premise and inexplicable election day setting, Foldy leaves us with too neat an ending arrived at too easily. His sitcom shtick (albeit with pay-cable language) brings only the occasional laugh, and his wooden direction too often leaves his actors waiting on each other’s lines with painfully obvious pauses.

Henning is capable, and Brown has moments of authenticity, but McCoy — despite some decent one-liners — often looks like he’s reading off cue cards, while Wernicke plays her thinly-written character one-dimensionally.

Sure, there are a few laughs along the way, but neither the emotion nor the sex is ever close to penetrating.

Dorie Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through June 18. Running time: 55 minutes.



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