Exhibiting an impressively original voice, scripter Phinneas Kiyomura has spun a compelling, brutally graphic history of a dysfunctional college coed whose intense needs and insecurities obliterate any rational perspective in her dealings with the world. The thematic throughline of “Lydia in Bed” unfolds haphazardly, as if the individual jagged shards of scenic matter are being inspected at random. Director Sam Roberts empathetically guides a talented five-member ensemble seamlessly through every segment of Kiyomura’s fractured time sequence.
Characters are all imbued with intriguing, unexplained emotional baggage. Lydia (Millie Chow) and her new boyfriend, Bob (Kiyomura), are attractive collegians who should have no more on their minds than their studies, interspersed with some carefree coupling.
But Lydia’s sense of identity has been skewered and flayed, exposing her vulnerability to the dispassionate but sexually rapacious amorality of Bob’s father, Grave (Phil Ward). Bob himself suffers a pervasive sadness.
Complicating the interactions of this warped menage a trois are Grave’s ferociously ballsy, dope-dealing lover Reesa (Lauren Letherer) and Bob’s wholesome but troubled former g.f. Janeane (Alina Phelan, alternating with Heather Witt).
Played out in short, sharply detailed vignettes, the fragmented relationships jab forward, backward and sideways, offering a tantalizing but incomplete glimpse into an unfolding saga that offers no hope for the salvation of the participants.
The recapitulating fornications that imbue the work are as graphic as they are sexless. It is not affection or lust that propels these churning bodies. Lydia’s orgasms are accompanied by wracking sobs. Grave pummels her ever-ready body only because he can.
Roberts layers the action to perfection, never allowing the overlapping scenes and arbitrary time sequences to contradict one another.
Chow reveals every detail of Lydia’s deeply ingrained despair, accented by jarring mood swings and self-serving juvenile impetuousness. Kiyomura’s Bob is quite believable as a long-suffering good soul who is simply out of place in this world.
Ward’s performance certainly lives up to the name of his character. Grave’s bloodless disregard for human compassion or responsibility is especially chilling in his failed efforts to show real affection for his son.
In two smaller roles, Letherer’s Reesa is as uncomplicated in her total hedonism as Phelan’s Janeane is weighed down by her own civility.
The strangely staged final scene does not live up to the action that precedes it. But with a rethink and restructuring of the play’s ending, “Lydia in Bed” definitely has strong legs to move on.