* by Mark Ravenhill. * Directed by Gemma Bodinetz and Max Stafford-Clark. * New York Theater Workshop, New York City.

How to Get Attention as an Unknown Young Playwright:

1) Pick an outrageous title that “respectable” family newspapers won’t print.

2) Fill the play with the scuzziest characters and most squalid plot you can think of. How about a drug dealer who uses the plot of The Lion King to recruit kids to sell ecstasy in discos? How about a pair of boy-girl love slaves whose master abandons them so they turn to phone sex to pay off debts? How about a junkie who picks up a 14-year-old hustler and obliges his fantasy of being sodomized to death with a sharp blade? Fab!

3) If you belong to a minority, prove your integrity by trashing that minority. For instance, if you’re gay, stage a bloody butt-licking, a department-store blowjob, and an S&M gang rape as the sum total of gay sexual experience.

Thirty-one-year-old gay British playwright Mark Ravenhill has learned his lessons well. His first play, Shopping and Fucking, a hit in London’s West End, has been produced in Greece, Israel, Sweden, and Germany and made its New York debut, at the Off-Broadway theater that created Rent. Pretending to attack consumerism (“Civilization is money,” the drug dealer preaches), the play is as slick, cynical, and truthless as the capitalist mentality it pretends to expose.


The Advocate, March 17, 1998

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