Fulfillment

By Thomas Bradshawfulfillment logo

Directed by Ethan McSweeny

Produced by The Flea theater

and the American Theater Co (ATC)

At ATC in Chicago

Puzzling pointless drama is a head-scratcher

In a co-production with New York’s The Flea Theater, ATC has mounted a perplexing drama that evolves as a head-scratching 90 minutes of live theatre. Thomas Bradshaw is a shock artist whose plays are filled with rage and vivid, gratuitous sex scenes and Fulfillment is no exception; the show actually has a sex choreography Yehuda Duenyas – as if fornicating needs direction!

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Fulfillment is a puzzle which contains a group of characters who we don’t relate to or empathize with.  The story is unfocused and borders on absurdity. Many of the plot points come out of nowhere. And after a convoluted 90 minutes peppered with graphic sex, drugs, and violence, we leave the theatre wondering why we sat through this play.

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Michael (Stephan Conrad Moore) is an African-American lawyer with a large NYC firm. After 8 years with them, he continues to be passed up for partner. Yet his life is excellent, as he makes nearly 300k, has  many girlfriends, and he lives an upper class lifestyle. He even buys a $1.5 million condo in SoHo.  We see early on the graphic sex needs of Michael and his white colleague, Sarah (Erin Barlow). When Michael confronts his boss Mark (Scott  Olson) as to why he has not made partner, Mark tells him that it is because he is an alcoholic. Racial discrimination is not the reason.

That Michael is an alcoholic has not been established yet. We do see Michael eating and drinking with his best friend Simon (Jason Bradley), but our attention is on their detailed sex talk. After Mark’s revelation, we see Michael swiveling liquor directly from the bottle. Sarah convinces him to first practice meditation, then AA in a pledge for him to get sober. Sarah and Michael now live together (as witnessed by kinky nude sex scenes).

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But Michael’s upstairs neighbor inexplicably tortures Michael by pounding his feet, playing loud music, and creating enough noise on the bare wooden floor to keep Michael from sleep. Why? Of course, this leads to confrontation and eventual violence.This tension ultimately leads to Michael’s falling off the wagon, which includes a booze and drug fest with a potential major client. Meanwhile,  Sarah has sex with Simon as his marriage is in trouble. Why show their sex in vivid detail?

I’ll not reveal more except to say that Michael’s future is in doubt as he pays a price for his actions. His friends acknowledge that somehow he’ll survive. But by that time, I couldn’t care less.  Bradshaw’s characters are such neutral folks that we never care much for them. The play is based on reality, yet the situations are so preposterous that I wonder if Bradshaw is really going for an absurdist style. In any case, Fulfillment is 90 minutes of drama about unlikable characters doing some unmotivated things with graphic sexual scenes that serve no purpose except to titillate audiences. This unsettling work begs the question: who is the audience for this play? Again, I scratch my head for an answer.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 12, 2015

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Fulfillment page at theatreinchicago.com

ATC, 1909 W. Bryon, Chicago, IL call 773-409-4125, www.atcweb.org, tickets $43,  Thursday & Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through December 13, 2015

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