The Art of Success

(Cara Smith/AQ)

I had just arrived at the Theatre New Brunswick studio theatre, settling in to watch The Art of Success, an adult comedy put on by the Nasty Shadows Theatre Company. Excited to take in some of Fredericton’s fine art and culture.

And then the main actor whipped his junk out.

One minute I’m laughing with the rest of the audience, the next I have a flaccid penis staring me in the face. This was not just for one second, or even one minute. Instead, it was a scene that lasted several minutes in which the main character walked around in a bed sheet which continuously fell off… Again, and again.

“This is one of our more edgy pieces,” laughed Scott Shannon, the director of The Art of Success, which is put on by Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. “But what we’re going to do tonight is no worse than what you can go download off the internet.”

This was completely true. It was no kinkier than an episode of True Blood, which I watch religiously. But even that is awkward to watch with other people.

“It’s the nudity and sex talk that throws people off,” said Shannon.

Once you get past your own awkwardness and realize that there’s no reason to be weirded out by the disturbing sexual nature, you can see the play for what it really is.

“I hope those who are offended can see past the sex and the crudeness, and be able to recognize the deeper issues,” said Josie Blackmore, a St. Thomas University student, who plays the role of Jane Hogarth.

This play takes place in one night and it follows a struggling artist, William Hogarth, who is dealing with his own personal demons: he loves his wife, yet he cannot seem to be sexually satisfied by her and turns to prostitutes. He hires the prostitutes to perform peculiar sexual acts, such as farting on his face. Yet it also explores each of the 10 characters, what it really means to be an artist, how far does friendship reach, as well as corruption.

Each and every actor did a stupendous job, to the point where I had to remind myself that the roles were not written for them. The stage consisted solely of 10 black boxes, one black wall that the actors hid behind and there was minimal use of props. Yet this allowed the audience to focus directly on the actors, with no distractions.

The staging was fantastic, but it was really the acting that made this extraordinary. STU’s own Josie Blackmore gave an incredible performance as the main character’s wife. Her chemistry with Matthew Spinney (William Hogarth) also made for an incredible performance. Spinney never once faltered from his character, even when his penis was on open display, or when there was a prostitute farting on his face.

Every single person played their character extraordinarily. There was no sense that this was an amateur play group. I, along with each and every person in the audience, was wholly engrossed.

“I expect [the audience] to be having a good time,” said Shannon. “They may not believe what they are seeing or hearing at times, but they will be swept up for the ride.”

With all of my doubts and reservations, this is exactly what happened. I will remember this play not just for the explicit sex scenes, but because of the issues raised of love, art, and politics that The Art of Success presented. I will definitely be going to see another production by Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. again.

I give this play four huge exposed testicles out of four.


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