Say a man dies of AIDS. Now say a friend collects his blood and bandages and condoms and catheters and makes them into art. Has this artist crossed the line between creation and exploitation? In friendship, there’s a similarly delicate line between amity and antagonism. And when these lines intersect in Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water)
, it’s downright combustible. Ravenhill’s 2006 play, presented by Theatre Vertigo in a striking if occasionally shaky production, is written as a collective monologue, and these seven actors deliver some lines singly and others in unison in a propulsive, pitter-patter style that’s like slam poetry with a malevolent bite. All bohemian artists, they’ve gathered at the posh digs of a friend who’s made it big—thanks to that aforementioned AIDS art. But then a freak accident lands the successful artist in a coma, her body a mangled canvas of ghastly bruises, and the others begin photographing her wounds. As if armed with an automatic rifle, Ravenhill takes aim at the modern urge to document everything and our instinct to pervert tragedy for our own creative ends. It’s a lot for a 70-minute one-act, but these actors throw themselves at it. Sometimes literally—it’s a highly physical production punctuated by spasms of abstract movement. The choreography is a mixed bag: The flurry of photography in the hospital room is awkward, while a joylessly frenzied coke-and-sex binge strikes at our twisted reactions to grief. As for the performers, a few—such as Stephanie Cordell as a fiery-eyed hellion oozing dangerous sexual energy—commit fully, while others waver. But in the moments when this group comes together, like a diabolical Greek chorus, this is a satisfying deep-end dive into a stew of adrenaline, narcissism and shame.
2110 SE 10th Ave.Website: http://www.theatrevertigo.org