One of these days, the Amoralists are going to get arrested. Company’s “HotelMotel,” a site-specific production at the Gershwin Hotel, limited to a cozy 20 seats, advertises one of its two plays as “a comedy about orgies gone bad,” and given the company’s literally ballsy propensity for boundary-pushing nudity, Amoralists fans may enter the venue with excusable trepidation, at least if they’re bringing dates. Second play reps some of writer/helmer Adam Rapp’s best writing, with less surefooted work from company founder Derek Ahonen (also double-dipping) on first. Nakedness, both physical and emotional, abounds.
Ahonen’s “Pink Knees on Pale Skin” opens the two-play set. Fearlessness is more or less the fuel in the Amoralists’ engine, and that quality is on full display here as Ahonen and his actors lay out the plot: a cruel sex therapist (Sarah Lemp) and her husband Leroy (Jordan Tisdale) work with couples on the verge of divorce in hotel room where Leroy hides under the bed, naked, and emerges to screw with their heads and, if they’re interested, their bodies.
The play benefits from some good performances, notably from Lemp and a very game Anna Stromberg as Allison Williams, a comedian who can’t have an orgasm or tell a joke. But Ahonen assigns too many pat psychological backstories, and the play starts to seem conventional even as its its characters graphically work out their sexual problems within arm’s reach of the audience
After a notably small-talk-free intermission, Rapp’s “Animals and Plants” takes over the space. The plays have similar settings, but on leaving the Gershwin, it’s hard to think of two more different scripts. Rapp’s two drug dealers, Dantly (William Apps) and Burris (Matthew Pilieci), seem borrowed from a Sam Shepard play, but Rapp creates such a strong atmosphere of magic and fear in the play’s Boone, N.C. motel room that the characters seem just as bewildered as the audience as the murderous narrator starts to play tricks on them. “I’m not really here, but I might be back later,” he warns. Pilieci is notably good here, as he was in “Pied Pipers,” and Brian Mendes is terrifying.
Tech aspects are minimal in “Pink Knees” and surprisingly complicated in “Animals and Plants;” overall, the strengths of the production overpower the weaknesses in the “Pink Knees” script, although the choice to play Rapp’s much slower, creepier play last in a nearly four-hour bill robs it of some of its power.