Culture Feature

Lured: A World of Theatrical Hurt

"You'd have to be broken to think this was okay"

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"Violation after violation" is the watch phrase for Lured.

Set in present day Russia amid newly revived anti-gay aggression, it deals directly with the violence of our time, and uncompromisingly shows it in gory detail. With an aesthetic reminiscent of the Grand-Guignol, we are taken on a trip in to a heart of darkness that is all too prescient.

To over-detail the plot of the play is to spoil its crucial twists and revelations. While not in Shyamalan territory, Frank J Avella's script features un-coverings that need to be preserved. As such, we can only explain the barest plot details here: A group of Russian sadists bring a gay man into a room. They abuse him violently and film it for viral internet viewing. The consequences reach further than they could imagine.

Watching Lured is an uncomfortable experience. Exploitation cinema and Sarah Kane are the closest points of comparison. Lured is sheerly violent, graphic, and unapologetic about it. Scenes of sexual abuse are played out with few punches pulled. The intent is clearly to provoke the audience into righteous anger, and it works. Avella's writing succeeds in alienating the watcher from their own humanity. Once realized, this feeling is terrifyingly hard to shake.

What's most interesting is that Avella's script doesn't seem to draw a conclusion from this violence. There's never a moment of "violence begets violence, beware viewer." In fact you find yourself rooting for some of the violence by the end of it. It never draws a prosaic conclusion. In fact the play never seems to draw any conclusions, it simply presents its conceit with the implied message, "you'd have to be broken to think this was okay." And the play is right.

Lured at Theatre for the New City

It's a brisk hour and change, with a lithe cast undertaking the difficult material with guts and moxie. Every one of them is a raw mess, in one sense or another, by the final curtain. The script demands excessive emotional brutality to compliment the choreographed physical brutality. At times it's genuinely difficult to watch, but the cast and director succeed in their mission. By the end there is no way to not talk about this play and the uncomfortable facts of our reality it presents.

Don't go in to Lured expecting anything but the worst of humanity. The script is blistering. The performances, scalded. The direction, untempered and abrasive. It blazes a trail through the psyche that will not cool any time soon. The jokes are few and bitter, reprieve is a foreigner, and your delicate sensibilities will not be taken in to account. If that sounds like an experience you can handle, then congratulations, you're ready to watch Lured. Don't expect any mercy.

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Thomas Burns Scully is a Popdust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



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