RITES OF PRIVACY – NYC Fringe – Theater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey on September 4, 2010

in Theater-New York

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With the ever-present possibility of public surveillance and the increasing integration of social network sites, it would seem that our rights to privacy are disappearing.  Keeping a secret can be a challenge in web 2.0 world.  In Rites of Privacy, however, writer and performer David Rhodes asks how much of a right to privacy we each have.   Privacy implies secrets, and secrets can be destructive things.  In his solo performance, Rhodes performs as five different characters, each excavating the secrets and omissions of their own private lives.

The characters are varied, ranging from an aging Southern belle, to a Jewish man who’s family had escaped Nazi Germany when he was a child, to a rent boy in Chelsea.  Each monologue tells an interesting story, and Rhodes succeeds in the range of personalities and mannerisms (director Charles Loffredo deserves credit here as well).  There isn’t an overarching narrative to speak of; it is simply a collection of confessions, the monologues presented one after another as discrete sections of the piece as a whole.  The detailed costumes, also designed by Rhodes, heighten the differentiation of the characters, though the transition time is sometimes confusing or distracting. The most baffling transitions, however, are the character change dance sequences that begin occurring in the second half of the play.

All of the characters have weighty secrets.  The secrets range from affairs to abortions to family members’ suicides, each character delivering a thoroughly naturalistic monologue that tells us who and where and what happened.  It’s never quite clear why each character has decided to bare his or her soul to us.  They don’t seem to confess out of guilt or fear, which makes the revelation of each deep secret seem a bit contrived—who are the characters supposedly sharing their secret with?  What drives them to finally reveal it?  By not clarifying the context of the confessions, Rhodes undermines the power of each revelation.

Each character monologue is well-performed and engaging, but the piece loses steam with Rhodes’ personal interludes about his own life and childhood, which he shares between characters and at the conclusion of the play.  Compared to the high-stakes secrets that his characters harbor, Rhodes’ doesn’t seem to have much to hide.  That might be the point— the show is designed to demonstrate the havoc wrought by secrecy, and Rhodes advocates total openness in life and relationships.  He makes it sound like a simple philosophy, but that just might be his secret.

The NYC Fringe version of Rites of Privacy ended on August 29
For more information, visit http://www.davidrhodesnyc.com

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