BOTTOM LINE: If you're looking for wholesome family fun, the Rods are against you, but if sexy sardonicism is more your speed, the Cables are more than able.
One could liken the experience of Rods and Cables to that of a sugar rush. As soon as I entered the theater, I felt I had been sipping liters of Coca Cola through several dozen Pixie Stix straws. The theater evokes memories of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory with a Little Man with a Big Costume (conveniently both character name and concise description) acting as a Willy Wonka-esque host, escorting guests to their seats and offering them beverages from an ice-filled tub placed centerstage. As he winks and smirks his way through the audience, another character, That Woman, floats about the theater is a four-tiered gown made entirely of freshly baked doughnuts. A woman's flat, toneless voice emanates from the speakers, reminding the audience, "You don't eat her, you eat the doughnuts she offers on her dress." All this before the scripted play has even begun!
Rods and Cables is a four character performance piece (although one may argue the disconnected "speaker" voice, which serves as narrator throughout the play's duration, is indeed a fifth) that explores the complexities of love and relationships through a kaliedoscopic lens. The cast is supported by an eclectic collection of musical selections, creative lighting and effects, and a short film projected on four flat screen TVs strung around the walls of this theater-in-the-round. The film is a lovely addition to the play as it offers a realistic depiction of a modern love triangle. This supplement provides an illuminating contrast to the absurd threesome around which the story is based.
The production establishes the relationships between the characters quickly and cleanly. The Sexy Clown and That Woman share a deeply sexual relationship, but find themselves in the shallow end of intimacy. At first, it appears both are content with such an arrangement, but with the arrival of a shiny, new plaything, Sultry Flight Attendant, That Woman realizes she requires more emotionally from The Sexy Clown. That Woman's persistent pulling of The Sexy Clown, however, reveals a frustrating indifference on the part of The Sexy Clown and the meat of the play discusses this issue's reconciliation. During one particularly poignant monologue, That Woman laments, "Man tries to make things permanent all the time...Nothing seems to ever stick around."
The world that writer and director Allison M Keating creates in Rods and Cables can be described as Candyland on crack. It is colorful, fun, humorous and silly, but just like the consequence of eating too many sweets, soon cavities appear and rot away the glossy enamel. This relationship's polished veneer becomes vunerable to suspicion, deceit and decay. It is this continual balancing act, fleshed out nicely by the ensemble cast, that gives this production its immense appeal. Rods and Cables reminds the audience that nothing is just good or bad, loving or hateful, sweet or bitter, simple or difficult in life in general, but in love especially. As much as an overindulgence of sugar could potentially bring about the onset of diabetes, as human beings, we are willing to risk it for that syrupy sweet rush.
(Rods and Cables runs through April 11th, at the 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $25-$30, $15 for students, available at 212-352-3101 or 3LDNYC.org.)