L-R: Hansen, Kuehne, Rasmussen (on the screen), Farber and Peery.
When David Fetzer and company launched the New Works Theatre Machine last November, his idea was to give the experiment with unconventional storytelling devices in order to find more effective and exciting ways to engage an audience. Unfortunately, those plans were cut short in mid-November during their debut production of Go To Hell, at The Pickle Factory when the Fire Marshal stepped in and shut everything down. Four months later, NWTM struck a temporary deal with the Rose Wagner to present a new play at the prestigious theatre. The company's newest production, Ride Me, will be held in the Blackbox Theatre as a special limited engagement from June 1-5.
Ride Me is loosely based on the 1999 movie "Cruel Intentions,” which was loosely based on Christopher Hampton's 1985 play, “Dangerous Liaisons”. Ride Me focuses on Buffy (Ariana Farber) and Ryan (John Kuehne), half siblings with an imperfect and distorted family history. The two place a wager over whether Ryan can successfully seduce a recent transfer student, Annette (Alexandrea Rasmussen). While Ryan pursues Annette, Buffy sets her sights on one of her former exploits, Court (Jesse Peery). She uses his naïve and infatuated cello student, Cecile (Amber Hansen), to manipulate him back into her ever maddening grasp.
On the surface, Ride Me simply sounds like a modern retelling of this particular story's earlier incarnations. However, once you peel back the adaptation label, the play becomes a deconstructed examination of sexual desire. It explores the lengths some will go to achieve what they want, and the depths they're willing to throw themselves down in the process.
The actors take a simplistic one-act play and expand it into a world that examines itself. Ride Me utilizes a screen backdrop and film elements to broaden the audience's experience. Farber's performance stands out from the start. She moves about the stage like a snake eyeing its prey, observing from the darkness as her plans move forward. Kuehen embraces the role of the seductive predator. He's comfortably subdued while driving his priceless car through the film-projected canyons, then instantly switches to a fervid whore, glorified with silhouetted sex acts projected from the screen. Each scene is fueled by the fantastic musical interludes composed by Vanessa Shuput Garcia. Every song subtlety switches moods between scenes, from poetic betrayal to disheartened success and melodic dance.
Ride Me treads the line of making sex seem secondary to domination as the lead characters take pleasure in distributing mental carnage for their own gain. With scenes containing enough tongue-in-cheek humor to keep you laughing throughout the destructive experience. Ride Me has its share of foul intent, but the dialogue is charming enough to make viewers crack a smile, whether you're watching Ryan's disinterest tear away at Annette's displeasure toward him, or Cecile and Court growing closer over her grody attempts at perfecting the cello. Even Buffy's slow but steady descent into madness brings a tone of satisfaction to the audience.
You can catch Ride Me during its limited engagement from June 1-5 at The Rose Wagner, Tickets are just $10 online, with a sliding scale of $10-$30 if purchased at the door or over the phone. As a bonus, high-school students (with valid school ID) may attend for free, but are advised to bring a guardian due to language and content.