Review: ASKING FOR IT (at the Thousand Islands Playhouse)

by Lynn on September 25, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Firehall Theatre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque, Ont.

Written by Ellie Moon

Directed by Carly Chamberlain

Original mise-en-scene, Brendan Healy

Music and sound by Richard Feren

Lighting by André du Toit

Cast: Geoffrey Armour

Michael Chiem

Brittany Kay

Ellie Moon

Playwright/actress Ellie Moon first heard about the Jian Ghomeshi case, in which he allegedly sexually assaulted several women, when she was studying theatre in London, England. When she returned home she decided to have a candid look at consent by writing a play about it. Asking For It is the result. I never saw it when it played earlier in Toronto but felt it was such a compelling subject that a little three hour plus trip to Gananoque to see this production was warranted.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The four actors—Geoffrey Armour, Michael Chiem, Brittany Kay and Ellie Moon–sit around a large table in front of microphones for the most part. A man and a woman facing a man and a woman. Ellie Moon is one of the actors and plays herself and of course is also the playwright. She asks questions of the others as they play parts. Most of those questioned are women and of course the questions are from their point of view. Moon balances her play with comments from men as well, and their perspectives may/can be different. In one scene a man slumbering on a subway is quietly approached by Moon to comment on consent and various issues. He’s not happy at the disturbance. He is aggravated by the assumption that men are always to blame. The comment is articulate and reasoned. It’s a refreshing inclusion in that it offers a balanced opposing opinion that surrounds a thorny issue.

There are scenes in which Moon talks with her chirpy younger sister about sex and with her friends about their sexual experiences with men. In one case, talking with her best (woman) friend, Moon describes having sex with a man who was a friend and it got decidedly rough. Moon seemed startled by her sexual partner’s rough actions. What does one do? In another instance Moon is told by the same best (woman) friend that she had sex with a friend but that it wasn’t consensual. She had been drinking. Her friend took her home and the next thing she remembers is that she woke up and he was on top of her. She said nothing. Ellie Moon quietly says that “He raped you.” Her friend downplays it. Moon persists, “He raped you.” One of the thorny issues about ‘consent’ is that the sexual partner who has been abused from a general point of view, has the right not to say anything about it, no matter how unsettling it is.

Moon nicely captures the language and cadences of many and various characters. The production is well cast with Geoffrey Armour, Michael Chiem, Brittany Kay and Ellie Moon playing various parts—except for Moon as herself who is the consistent presence in all the interactions. The tone is understated by the characters—there is no loud hysteria to distance you or manipulate you from the focus of the play—observation of the many and various layers of consent. The production is beautifully, carefully and sensitively directed by Carly Chamberlain.

I will say that I thought the title Asking For It is a bit of a tease in that Ellie Moon’s play is not about that. Moon ends her play with one final speech that she says was not in the original—since I didn’t see the original I’m not sure what that means. In the speech Moon explains that she was startled by her friend who was rough in sex—he put his arm across her throat and held her there—startled, in that she liked it. That brought up other ideas for her to be explored. I think that last speech is out of place. It brings up a new notion that Moon liked rough sex with that friend that seems tacked on and not explored at the time it was happening. I think that last speech should either be cut or repositioned.

In any case, Asking For It is a bracing, challenging play full of ideas to ponder, discuss, argue about and consider.

Correction to my review of ASKING FOR IT

Thousand Islands Playhouse presents:

Began: Sept. 13, 2019.

Closes: Sept. 29, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, approx. with intermission.

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1 Cassel Miles September 25, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Josiah Henson:From Slave to Saviour
The Grand Theatre, Kingston, October 23rd @ 7:30pm josiah-henson/