I’d seen Thomas Bradshaw’s last play, Burning, a couple of years ago so I knew what I was getting myself into when I “signed up” to see Intimacy, his latest work produced by The New Group.

There is a lot of nudity, masturbation, and fake semen in this one. It’s about three families in some small American town whose lives are kind of turned upside-down when one of the widower-devout Christian father’s discovers one of the girls next door is a porn star. Values are examined, the porn star’s father has to come to terms with his daughter’s career choice (as the mother seems incredibly supportive), and the climax (no pun intended) is all three families acting in a porno together filmed directed by the devout Christian’s son, Matthew (I’m pretty sure that was his name).

This is the intimacy that that the title refers to. It’s a little weird. Okay, very weird. And incredibly unbelievable, but hey, maybe it’s not so much as we hear more and more nowadays about mothers and daughters doing porn together and the like. The writing in Intimacy was never Pulitzer Prize worthy but when the plot atrophies, so does the writing.

Bradshaw likes to see how far he can push his audiences. Well, he pushed them quite far and a lot of them didn’t come back. But I think that’s part of the fun of a Bradshaw play: observing the audience’s reaction.

 I’d heard that Burning, the current New Group production, was graphic and intense, and yes, that was partially why I went to see it. I wasn’t familiar with most of the cast and knew nothing about why the play was intense other than the fact that it just was, and also that there was a lot of nudity. 

Intense doesn’t being to describe Burning. Burning is the intertwined stories of several groups of people and what happens to them before and after they come together. There’s incest, pedophilia, rape, racism, Neo Nazis, lots of sex, prostitution, murder, and art.  And that just brushes the surface.

There were numerous levels to Burning and all of them could never possibly be understood in one viewing. I’m going to try to go back before it closes, but this was the most uncomfortable (in a good way) I’ve been in a theatre in a while.  If the theatre doesn’t make you uncomfortable every once in a while, what’s the point of going, right?

Hunter Foster somehow found his way into this cast and although he was good, and believable, he looked slightly lost onstage. Danny Mastrogiorgio, the only other name I recognized on the board, was great as well, and as a plus, looked less lost on stage than Foster did.

Burning is an interesting, sometimes cringe-inducing piece of work. If you can go, go.