Wrestling, punching, kicking, fighting, drinking, cussing, having sex...Winter Miller's The Penetration Play is full of aggressive alpha-male machismo from start to finish. The play's main characters Rain and Ash are in a constant state of competition, bullying each other, smacking each other around, and even spitting in each other's faces in a constant power struggle. Sound like too much testosterone for you to handle? Well, it isn't. Rain and Ash are girls. And the only other character to grace the stage is Maggie, Ash's mother. Sure, there is talk about Ash's newly re-discovered boyfriend, Rich, as well as some discussion about her father, Bill. But all things phallic are surprisingly absent from a play whose title might lead one to think about, well, all things phallic.
At the onset of the play, Rain and Ash jog into Ash's family's beach house. Ash begins looking for her parents, and Rain bets, "...they're having hot sex in the attic." Rain goes on to mimic traditionally male sexual motions even after Ash assures her that her parents have not had sex since "...Nixon was shredding tape."
This sex talk leads them almost immediately to begin talking about Rich, an old flame of Ash's that has recently been rekindled. Rain responds at first with casual indifference, then with aggressive disapproval and it becomes clear that Rain is very, very jealous of her best friend's lover. The two girls poke and prod at each other the rest of the first act, testing each other's physical and emotional limits before a truce is called so they can prepare for a night out with Rich.
Rain returns to the beach house early, finding herself incapable of watching the woman she loves make out with a man she loathes. She inadvertently stirs Ash's mom Maggie, who is more than happy to entertain Rain with cheese, wine, and stories of the past (and where her life went wrong). But it is not long before Rain begins to see where Ash's attractive qualities come from. Sex, more sex, and teary-eyed-yet-fiery confrontations ensue. In the end, no character is spared uncertainty and heartbreak.
The dialogue that Winter Miller sets down on the stage for her characters is very conversational, which makes her characters as believable and tangible as anyone I know off-stage. And both the ambiguity and ambivalence present in the play's resolution feel strikingly close to the same emotions present at the end of any relationship I have ever had.
Mia Barron's portrayal of the accidental heartbreaker Ashley is filled with a balance of sexual energy and innocence, making it easy to understand why her best friend (as well as a number of young men) would fall head over heels in love with her.
The set is every bit the upscale Jersey shore beach house it is supposed to be, thanks to scenic designer Robin Vest. Little touches such as ornate wallpaper and the delicately decorated cheese tray really make the world of the play come to life.