The Bushwick Starr’s “Singlet” Tests the Limits of Intimacy
Consider yourself blessed, Brooklyn: the downtown and all’s-fair-in-love-and-cabaret artist Erin Markey is performing within walking distance from the L Train. Markey, whose preferred gender pronoun is they, has written — and is performing in — Singlet, a bold world premiere that is now extended at The Bushwick Starr through June 12 (207 Starr Street). Known for their one-of-a-kind and genre-defying Manhattan performances, Markey now comes to their home borough with a stunning and zippy world premiere.
And despite the venue, you might think you’re walking into a wrestling arena. Markey and their sparring/scene partner, Emily Davis, perform on a monochromatic floor with an athletic ring, complete with a lion mascot, in the center. Both wearing — you guessed it — singlets, Davis and Markey transform into various nonromantic pairs exploring the limits of platonic intimacy. An easily riled-up coach flirts with an impudent student athlete, a father and daughter share a beer after a long day, and co-social studies teachers do more than, well, socialize and teach. Each interaction is more than just a tete-a-tete; erotic undercurrents draw the characters together in situations sensual and icky, tender and manipulative.
Markey and Davis bravely and masterfully explore their sundry characters, nimbly switching from role to role in director Jordan Fein’s 80-minute production. Though rich in quick narratives, Singlet is not going for plot: It is a spooled out poem, an opportunity for variations on a theme that offers Markey — and their audiences — the chance to viscerally experience where our thresholds are, what happens when we test them, and how hard it is to view and digest intimacy, in all its uncomfortable and dazzling shades.
After many scenes, the performers catapult their pent-up sexual tension into full-blown wrestling matches — headlocks, takedowns, and all. And how could they not? Markey and Davis sweat and tease throughout, nearly seducing each other with their tricks — and easily seducing audiences with their magnetic performances and palpable chemistry.