New York City theater-goers should take a break from Broadway and journey down to the West Village to The Westbeth Theater. Currently playing is the raunchy production, Shyness is Nice, written by Spin Magazine senior contributing writer Marc Spitz and directed by Jonathan Lisecki. These two men have successfully collaborated before, on such productions as The Retail Sluts and The Rise and Fall of Farewell Drugs. The Village Voice notes correctly that "an easy grasp of the hipster vernacular gives Spitz's work an undeniable immediacy for which most playwrights would give their teeth" and in my opinion the production explores far more than the vernacular.
Shyness is Nice, which began its open-ended run on May 5th, is now entering its twelfth week of performance. If that's not enough indication of its overwhelming success, during the course of the run, the number of performances per week of this production has doubled, and it is still selling well. The cast includes actors Zeke Farrow, Andersen Gabrych, Camille Habacker, Sibyl Kempson, as well as the production's own director, Jonathan Lisecki.
Shyness is Nice adopts its name from lyrics by The Smiths' song, "Ask." This positively hilarious production tells the story of two 30-year-old virgins and their travails with an Australian prostitute, instigated by their poseur friend. The plot grows even more absurd when the hooker's pimp realizes that the heroin payment is actually baby laxative. The playwright is quoted as saying, "The play addresses my empathy for poseurs." Incidentally the play was recently adapted as a screenplay for a pornographic film entitled Platypussy, currently being shot, and due to be released soon.
The Westbeth Theater, located at 151 Bank Street, has to date hosted a variety of productions, from traditional theater to live rock to cabaret acts. Historically, the site has also served diverse purposes. One hundred years ago, the Westbeth Theater was the original Bell Laboratories, where Alexander Graham Bell developed the transistor. It was later the site of the first sound studio built for film. Subsequently, the first talking picture, Al Jolsons' The Jazz Singer, was mixed there. To add to the list, the very first broadcast sporting event (a tennis match) was aired from the roof of what is now the Westbeth Theater.
For the chance to get a few laughs at a curious venue, be sure to attend a performance of Shyness is Nice, which runs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 p.m. On Saturdays, doors open at 9:30 p.m. and, incidentally, so does the theater's bar, though the play is surely amusing enough all on its own.
The Westbeth Theatre is located at 151 Bank Street in the West Village.