Off Broadway's MCC Theatre is offering up the American premiere of Penelope Skinner's "The Village Bike," a work that earned Skinner the Evening Standard Award for most promising playwright when the show opened in London a few years back. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
I'd like to explain the title of MCC Theater's latest play, "The Village Bike," but frankly, this is a family channel. Suffice it to say, "The Village Bike" is crude British slang for a woman who, well, gives everyone in town a ride. But if you think this import is a typical English sex farce such as "Run for Your Wife!", you'd be wrong.
Yes, Penelope Skinner's play centers on sex and gets plenty of laughs, but it rolls into dangerous territory. Young wife and first-trimester-mother-to-be Becky, played by the beguiling film actress Greta Gerwig, has recently moved to small-town England with her ultra-liberal husband, John. He’s one of those doting, hovering spouses who frets more about his wife's nutritional needs than her sexual ones.
Becky is frustrated. And hormonal. Also, it's summer and there's a heat wave. The stage is set for smutty double entendres about banging pipes and how hot it is. When Becky buys a bike from village Lothario Oliver Hardcastle, the wink-wink innuendo and symbolism is obvious, but in a knowing, stylized way. Soon, she's watching porn and embarking on a relationship with Oliver that shreds her notions of propriety and motherhood, calling into question what are natural urges, what is social deviance.
Director Sam Gold brilliantly balances formal rigor with visceral drama in a visually strong production. The cast is superb, Gerwig luminous, adorably quirky yet very real. As Oliver, Scott Shepard exudes cool, reptilian charisma. Their scenes together are sexy, until they turn a corner and become deeply unsettling.
No one would mistake this biting social drama as an easy ride, but "The Village Bike" takes you further than you’d expect.