Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE SURRENDER (Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on January 12, 2014

in Theater-New York


The Woman in the one-woman show The Surrender, adapted for the stage by Isabelle Stoffel and Toni Bentley from Ms. Bentley’s book The Surrender, An Erotic Memoir, tells of how she finds God while receiving her first anal sex, and continues to find Him 297 more times until her dalliance with the fellow providing this transcendental service comes to an end. Finding God through anal sex – the setup is ripe with comic possibilities. Unfortunately this show, with its inane, humorless, and drama-free script, Zishan Ugurlu’s flat direction, and an unconvincing, one-note Laura Campbell stars in Toni Bentley's THE SURRENDER, running at the Clurman Theater. Photo by Paul Kolnik.performance by Laura Campbell is an embarrassing, eye-rolling, yawn-inducing 70 minutes that needn’t be experienced by anyone. Its narrator – the Woman – lacks insight not merely into the world around her but into herself, which makes successful confessional theater difficult. Her observations are uninteresting, trivial and at times simply wrong. And when she speaks of anal sex as a portal to some elevated, divine plane she sounds like a neophyte; oftentimes the play feels like it would work better as a parody. To give Ms. Bentley the benefit of the doubt, she appears to have been truly moved by her anal adventures with her unnamed lover, regardless of how unmoving Ms. Campbell’s performance may be. Still, it’s worth remembering that sex, whether anal or some other kind – and no matter how pleasurable or gratifyingly painful or transportive – is only part of the story. But on its own it’s not news; many people have had earth-shattering sex, and it’s not drama.

photo by Paul Kolnik

The Surrender
presented by the Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation
Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues
scheduled to end on February 2, 2014
for tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit
for more information visit


Sam January 15, 2014 at 8:04 am

Dmitry definitely has a stick up his butt. It’s a celebration of a wonderful sexual position, even if wholly lacking in theatrical heft. Just as a provocateur, she’s to be applauded. Keep hauling ass, Ms. Bentley!

Dmitry Zvonkov January 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

Dear Sam, first, let me say how glad I am that despite the fact that we’ve never interacted you feel comfortable enough with me to put us on a first-name basis. Regarding your note, there’s a difference between being a provocateur and a narcissistic exhibitionist creating puerile spectacle to further one’s vain ambitions. And if you believe good taste and critical thinking are negative qualities, I suggest you reevaluate yourself as a human being. Or at least refrain from writing inane comments.

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