Lee Breuer’s production of Sex in a Coma at Here is almost unbearably pretentious—a cacophony of whispers, fog, and stilted proclamations—but that’s not the problem. The problem is the utter tonal schizophrenia on display within the production, which veers uneasily from magic realism to broad comedy with little evidence of method or design. I haven’t the faintest idea how it was meant to make me feel, and unfortunately, its creators appear equally clueless.
True to the title, Susan Eve Haar’s script centers on Corolla (Jessica Weinstein), a young woman in a coma who is impregnated. The perpetrator is presumably Benito (David-Julian Melendez), an orderly who believes they share an unspoken bond, a psychic vibration that is surely love. The tale is told in the context of a trial, with the audience/jury filled in by The Prosecutor (Maude Mitchell, in a performance scaled for an infinitely larger house than this).
Acclaimed director Breuer’s aesthetics are clean—he smoothly integrates the various moving parts, from curtains to set pieces to multimedia elements (TV screens, rear projection, sound effects)—but his style is all over the place. After the serious set-up scenes, Corolla’s mother (Wendy vanden Heuvel), a dancer, gives her testimony while stretching and then stops for an impromptu modern-dance number that’s played for big, dumb laughs. It’s sort of funny, in a vague and disconnected way, but jarringly incongruent with what has come before. The next scene finds Corolla’s doctor (Paul Kandel) villainously chewing scenery like a Harvey Korman character, but that’s followed by a heartfelt mother-daughter reunion, and then a detailed, graphic, out-of-left-field monologue about child molestation.
The play continues to bang back and forth between vampy antics and earnest melodrama, and the whiplash ultimately leaves the viewer exhausted. A few performances resonate—Weinstein and Melendez both impress, and Ching Valdes-Aran is a spirited presence. But they can’t save this lumpy, misshapen mess.