The Archery Contest Discovers Sex of Stage Design

There's one thing to be said for auteur director John Jahnke's The Archery Contest: It discovers the sex of stage design. At the play's start, prophylactic walls gird the playing area to waist-height, and matching black panels press down from above. Slowly, over the next 100 minutes, this set (designed by Peter Ksander) will crack open like a secret swamp-blossom. Panels will part, and the floor will open to mirrored depths: a scenic striptease.

Brilliant installation art it is, beautifully conceived and executed, but with a hollow dramatic center. Jahnke's script centers on a minister and his wife, each straining under the monotheistic, monogamous monotony of bourgeois life. Luckily for them, the fertility festival has arrived, and with it a pair of innocents and their creepy, pansexual warden. The resulting "comedy," as Jahnke calls it, lies somewhere between the saccharine sexcapades of A Midsummer Night's Dream and the dark, sexual sacrifice of Miss Julie.

Arrows and undies: The Archery Contest
Dixie Sheridan
Arrows and undies: The Archery Contest


The Archery Contest
By John Jahnke
150 First Avenue, 212-352-3101

Jahnke wants the ellipticalness of symbolist drama, but achieves mere circularity, returning to the most tired clichés of seduction and decadence: love among the tombstones, berry stains on milk-white skin, blood stains on wedding dresses. Absent dazzling thematic insight (and there is none), a script like this can be neither dated nor fresh: It is agelessly dull.

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