Off-Broadway Live & Streaming: CIRCLE JERK (Connelly Theater)

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by Tony Frankel on June 7, 2022

in Theater-New York,Virtual


Fake Friends, which co-created the zany streaming event This American Wife (review), are very very bright and insightful, au courant about the internet-age zeitgeist, and as queer as a clockwork orange. This tribe is a lot to take in, but take it in you must. Now, their Circle Jerk is back––and this time, you can get in on the action in person for a strictly-limited run beginning this Thursday June 9, 2022 for #Pride month.

In Circle Jerk, it’s winter on Gaymen Island, a summer retreat for the homosexual rich and fame-ish. This off-season, two White Gay internet trolls hatch a plot to take back what’s wrongfully theirs. Cancellations, meme schemes, and political and erotically flip flops abound as three actors playing nine parts play out this chaotic live-streamed descent into the high-energy, quick-change, low-brow shitpit of the internet.

See how the sausage gets made in this new hybrid in-person and live-streamed production. Join in the flesh at The Connelly Theater Off-Broadway (220 E 4th St), or get off digitally at home. Or both! Our Fake Friends will host special, late-night wild and unhinged performances through June 25, 2022. In-person Pride Performance tickets start at $19. Livestream tickets for all performances are available on a sliding scale from $5.99-$49.99. Tickets on sale here.

LUCY MOSS & TOBY MARLOW, writers of the internationally acclaimed musical Six, will host a special, late-night performance of Circle Jerk on June 11 at 10:30pm, in honor of Pride month.

This from Fake Friends (Michael Breslin, Patrick Foley, Catherine María Rodríguez, Ariel Sibert, and Rory Pelsue):

We live in a world of deep fakes, fake news, viral memes, and mainstream drag. We’re interconnected by our millions of daily digital (mis)information exchanges but still report feeling (self-)isolated. So where do we go for a little comfort, a little beauty, a little harmless illusion? To our bedrooms, to our screens, to watch our stories. But those stories, from the ones on I Love Lucy to the ones on the local news to the ones on Instagram Live, reach out and touch people and politics beyond the screen. Circle Jerk springs from these culturally contagious screened and staged stories, and takes on their historical ability to make us laugh our way into tragedy.

Across its own histories, queer theater has played with identity, staging the joys of artificiality and the crises of attempted authenticity. It confronts our aversions and attractions, putting the Ridiculous and the humiliated on the pedestal where “straight plays” enshrined perfection, Realism, and truth. Queer theater flips scripts. But what can it offer us when the world has lost the plot? And what can it tell us when we find ourselves stuck in perpetual loops, from “Don’t Ask” to “Don’t Say”?

In Circle Jerk, politics (made in the bedroom) and pleasure (found on a screen) empower a group of the oppressed to become the oppressors of others. The title takes its name both from the homoerotic ritual in which men masturbate in a circle, getting off on watching each other get off, and the subreddit “/r/circlejerk,” a forum for the groupshaming of online groupthink (mostly populated by young white men). This circle jerk pits our collective gaze at our inherited supremacies and the white, dimpled underbelly of our discourses and cults of culture. In it, Fake Friends (writers Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, collaborators Catherine María Rodríguez, Ariel Sibert and Rory Pelsue), attempt an (impossible?) exhibition: an experimental theater that tries to expose violence without reproducing harm.

The show combines quick changes and deep fakes, theatricality and the post-COVID livestream, to take on the laptop-orchestrated shitshow that is online life and its political discontents. The result is a homopessimist hybrid of yesterday’s live theater and today’s livestream (set in tomorrow’s news cycle), a new form made of old parts: An experimental film. A hijacked Instagram story. A queer, deranged live-audience sitcom featuring Gen-Z TikToks and Millennial memes.

The mark of a bunch of queer theater artists working together in this mess of discourse, in this time of long COVID and ongoing uprising, at this moment in our lives.

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