60 mins | 3 M 4 F | October 9-November 10, 2002 at DC Arts Center | Film version, “Snuff.mov” in 2008, click here
Jack loves Gwen. Gwen loves Jack. Everything’s fucked. Thumbsucker charts a terrifying map of the tricky terrain where comfort meets caution, love meets hate, humor meets horror, and sex meets violence.
Oct. 18, 2002
Those even casually familiar with Cherry Red Productions might expect its most recent offering, “Thumbsucker,” to feature a man who wears a diaper and spends a lot of time wallowing in a playpen, or possibly be something in the vein of John Waters’ “Crybaby.”
That’s what they’ve come to expect from this sort of slightly warped but amusing theater. Well, they’d be wrong.
Instead with “Thumbsucker,” writer and director Ian Allen presents one act of numbing, plausible horror, [seemingly] inspired by the matter-of-fact blood and gore of “American Psycho,” by gay author Brett Easton Ellis.
The action begins in a dimly lit hotel room. Jack is dressed and sitting on the edge of a high, comfy bed. He¹s sucking his thumb. Wrapped in a towel, Gwen enters the room. An obvious black fright wig obscures most of her face.
The two begin to talk, almost monosyllabically. It seems that Jack is coaxing Gwen to try a new sexual position. She climbs atop the bed and lies nervously on her stomach.
With little feeling, Gwen complains, “I’m scared, I’m nervous.”
“Use it,: Jack dully replies as he strips down to a jockstrap. Without warning, Jack drags a battered nude woman out from behind the bed. She’s unconscious. She also wears a fright wig (there’s a reason for this). Jack revives the nearly dead woman with a kiss.
Clearly, we’ve interrupted the middle of some sort of sexual torture session, and it’s round two for Jack and Gwen with their victim, Sam. Jack drags Sam back onto the bed and plops her facedown, Gwen climbs on, and Jack gets on top.
A pretty rough three-way ensues and climaxes with Jack forcing Sam to blow him as he scalps her. Yes, scalps her. Just when we think she’s dead, a now bald and bloodier Sam makes a run for the door. Jack finishes her off, and then playfully draws a bath for his dirty accomplice.
She¹s Meg. It’s a clammy déjà vu. The play restarts: the dialogue, blocking, everything is repeated exactly from the beginning of the play only this time Gwen is the victim. Jack orders Meg to join in what seems a serial killing.
After the action is played through completely and Gwen is murdered and Meg exits to take a bath, yet another woman emerges from the bathroom, and just when we think this odious orgy is about to be repeated once more, the play ends.
As Jack, who looks like the boy next door, but mercifully is not, Carlos Bustamante gives an aptly stolid performance. Judith Baicich is suitably shutdown as the robotic sex and murder slave, Gwen. Yasmin Tuazon as Meg is a hair more animated than Gwen, and whether this is from direction or force of personality, it¹s unsure. As Sam, the first victim, Sarah Hochkeppel is frighteningly real.
All actors are nude for most of the 45-minute play. After noticing who shaves where, and who has a dimpled ass, it¹s not a distraction.
In “Thumbsucker,” Allen creates a coldly callous microcosm. It’s misogynistic, violent, scary, and gruesome; and even more chilling, “Thumbsucker” just as easily could be a true story as a fantasy or metaphor.
Oct. 13, 2002
Two lovers, Gwen and Jack, meet each other among the stark shadows of a gloomy hotel room. As the clothes peel away, he’s a little forceful and demanding, she’s a tad apprehensive and self-deprecating. But what begins as a relatively innocent late-night tryst quickly transforms into a bizarre slaughterfest that proceeds to blur the line between love and hate, sex and violence, humor and horror. It all hits the fan when it’s suddenly clear that Gwen and Jack are not alone. Cherry Red’s artistic director Ian Allen, [writer of] Angel Shit and Baked Baby, delivers a script that slices, dices, and overlaps dialogue … warps time, recasts characters, and leaves an unsettling denouement with more severed body parts than clear answers. Thumbsucker will whet your whistle for a blood-smeared encore!