N.J. Playwright Again Pushes the Boundaries

By Feldberg, Robert | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), January 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

N.J. Playwright Again Pushes the Boundaries


Feldberg, Robert, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


A middle-aged husband and wife are in bed watching television.

Nothing unusual there. Except that what they're watching is their teenage daughter in a porn movie, while discussing ways she could improve her performance.

Welcome to the theatrical world of Thomas Bradshaw.

His comedy "Intimacy," with the above scene, and other comparably provocative moments, is in previews for a Jan. 29 opening at off- Broadway's New Group.

It's the latest in a run of works by the New Jersey-born author that push to the edge what we expect to see in mainstream theater, including graphic scenes of simulated sex. (The casting call for "Intimacy" advised actors: "Some form of nudity will be required of everyone.")

"I'm aware that I'm different," Bradshaw, 33, said in a phone conversation from Chicago, where he teaches playwriting at Northwestern University.

"I guess I'm drawn to subjects other people aren't interested in exploring. But they're very real aspects of the human experience, and shouldn't be swept under the rug.

"A lot of contemporary theater -- psychological realism -- is pretty boring. I think my plays give a more accurate picture of the world we live in."

He noted that perusing porn on the Internet is a pastime for millions of people, and his taking things a step further, in his mom- and-pop scene, is also true to life.

"I read a bunch of interviews with porn actors who said their parents watch their movies and critique them. You couldn't make that up."

"Intimacy" is a tale of three suburban families, with three horny teenagers, and an emphasis on the group's sexual fantasies, fears and physical engagements.

The families are racially and culturally mixed, but Bradshaw said he doesn't make anything of those differences, letting the audience process its own response.

In the past, however, in addition to such topics as incest and pedophilia, Bradshaw has pushed racial buttons, to the point, he said, that some black actors were reluctant to be in his plays for fear of sending the wrong message. …

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