Review: Slave Play
Is Slave Play something that you can actually like? That's a question that is as loaded as the conversation the play tries to start over three intermission-less acts. Opening with three scenes taking place on a plantation in the American South, what starts as a look at three relationships in the context of life on a plantation quickly dissolves into an academic essay with many questions that are left unanswered.
As the audience is introduced to the three couples at the center of the story, their reaction becomes a seventh characters as the first part continues. A mirror on the back wall of the set forces the audience to look at themselves and the reactions of those around them, bringing up questions about sex, love, and relationships. But it is when one man yells "Starbucks!" that this mirage of plantation life shatters. And what is actually going on starts to ask many questions.
As two doors in the mirror open to reveal women in white lab coats, we slowly learn that they are conducting an experiment to help interracial couples reconnect, after feeling like one partner is no longer gaining pleasure from the other. They're trying to have them work out their issues via slavery role play, which raises the question of whether or not the relationship of an interracial couple can be rooted in history of slavery and how that might affect their relationship both physically and mentally. The idea of that is intriguing, and it aims to start a conversation. But the play begins to lag shortly after.
Considering Slave Play faced backlash that went as far as a petition to have it shut down during a run at New York Theatre Workshop, one would expect it to be much more impressionable and affecting. But it falls short by not fully digging into the questions it wants to answer, expecting the audience to pick up their pieces on the subway ride home.