It’s not unusual to witness fight choreography and other displays of violence onstage. But how often do you see a guy spank a woman with an open hand on the rear? And no, this is not a “Fifty Shades of Grey” parody.
Bartender-turned-professional playwright Robert Askins, whose raucous comedy “Hand to God” recently landed on Broadway, has swiftly returned to MCC Theater (which presented “Hand to God” Off-Broadway last year) with “Permission,” which also satirizes strange and extreme behavior from Texan Christians.
In “Permission,” Eric and Cyndy (Justin Bartha and Elizabeth Reaser), an insecure husband and wife, follow the example of their friends Zach and Shelley (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Nicole Lowrance) by practicing Christian Domestic Discipline. At first, CCD rejuvenates Eric and Cyndy, but it ultimately proves to be a false solution.
I must confess that I was unfamiliar with CDD. At least as depicted in the play, in a CDD marriage, the husband maintains complete authority over his wife. If she does anything wrong, he spanks her. Although biblical passages are frequently quoted, CDD seems to be more about kinky sexual foreplay than religion.
Like “Hand to God,” which depicts a teenage boy whose hand becomes possessed by a foul-mouthed puppet, “Permission” is a wild comedy full of vulnerable characters who look normal at first glance. Alex Timbers’ (“Peter and the Starcatcher”) highly physical production highlights the mayhem to full effect.
However, “Permission” is very much a work in progress. The ending is abrupt, leaving many details unresolved, and the play may get too silly at times. Considering how long it took to develop “Hand to God,” one suspects that Askins is not done asking for “Permission.”
If you go: aPermissiona plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through June 7 |121 Christopher St. | mcctheater.org