Check your coat at the door, and maybe your comfort.
But what else would you expect going to see an immersive play about a gay sex worker in a Bushwick basement? Bleach, the UK-imported one-man show now at Tyler’s Basement (637 Wilson Avenue), boldly but often unsuccessfully tests the limits of actor-audience intimacy. An attendant at the theater asks if you’ll be comfortable with the performer touching you; the character, a gay prostitute, is a pro after all. He gets paid to touch.
Even if you say no, it’s hard to emerge unscathed. In Tyler’s subterranean shoebox studio where the ten-max audience members convene, it’s difficult to not at least brush shoulders with the single performer in Dan Ireland-Reeves’s erotically stimulating but intellectually numbing play.
Tyler (Eamon Yates) is a sex worker at the peak of his youth but at a stall in his career. (The cherubic but worldly Yates alternates the role with Brendan George.) Tyler’s “trying,” as he continues to tell us — though we’re not quite sure why he’s in this line of business after graduating school. Well, he does like orgasming, as he mentions, and “what’s the point if you don’t enjoy your job?”
If only Tyler were as interesting as his mischievous profession seems to be. Director Zack Carey makes strong use of the space; Tyler gets cozy with every nook and cranny, including the couch you sit on. But as Tyler builds relationships with the men he frequents (remember: you were asked if you were okay being touched), we feel increasingly distanced from our rentboy hero. Vapid statements about his family and friends feel shoehorned in, and descriptions about a man and the city he courts are cliche. (“There are 8.6 million people in this city and I am totally alone.”)
But Tyler’s earnest, like Yates’ performance. It may have been more satisfying to see a young sex worker who’s already jaded, unflappable to New York’s cesspool of men, but instead Yates infuses the rather undefined Tyler with pep and savvy. But after a meeting with a “client” goes wrong, and a bloody event requires the titular disinfectant, Tyler’s spirits sink even as his libido soars. Though now manic and unstable, his sweetness remains in tact, which is either a testament to Yates’ nature or his character’s lack of emotional range. Still, Tyler’s not the worst company you’ve had in New York. You’ve schlepped to Bushwick basements for worse Tinder dates.
Spin Cycle presents Bleach, playing through March 10 at Tyler’s Basement off the Wilson stop on the L Train. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased here.