TIO NYC: “Unseamly” at Urban Stages

TIO NYC: “Unseamly” at Urban Stages

Urban Stages is the theatre founded (over 30 years ago) and run by (long-time, part-time) Telluride local Frances Hill Barlow. From the get-go, the Big Idea idea was to provide emerging talent with a venue to address the multi-faceted issues facing our contemporary world and include the resources to develop their unique voices and gifts. The current production at Urban Stages (259 West 30th Street, through November 8) is the chilling (as in no holds  – or language – barred), thrilling (as in roller-coaster ride), “Unseamly,” elegantly, efficiently directed as a minimalist production for maximum punch by Sarah C. Carlsen. “Unseamly” is a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Call 212-868-4444 or Tickets here.



Just how many shades of grey are there when it comes to the use of the word “no” in the context of non-consensual sex?

Some studies say one in four women reports workplace sexual harassment; others say the number is closer to one in three.

Anyway, it’s a lot when none is the gold standard.

And the same studies say 71% never report the acts, which, according to the American Association of University Women, fall on a spectrum between “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

What’s worse, most state rape laws are at best equivocal. In general, the use of force makes non-consensual sex rape; non-consent does not.

Meet Malina as hot as the headlines that surrounded a former employee of American Apparel. Mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore, she goes after her big, bad wolf of a boss.

Malina is the protagonist and one of three central characters in Oren Safdie’s “Unseamly,” a play based on a true story about the potty-mouthed Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel, a sexual predator and delusional narcissist, who ran his clothing company like the Playboy empire: getting women out of threads, rather than in them, seemed to have been his priority.

And Safdie had a front row seat to the drama. He is Charney’s cousin. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

For a long while, Dov/Ira seemed invulnerable, protected by a laissez-faire board; non-disclosure agreements signed by subsequently violated female employees; and hushed out-of-court settlements.

Young (she had just turned 18 when the first attack – or was it an attack? – came) but seductive, naive but also smart, ambitious, but obviously vulnerable and traumatized, Gizel Jimenez’s Malina is the Dylan lyric to a “T”:“aches like a woman; breaks just like a little girl.”

Tommy Schrider is the world-weary, ne’er-do-well lawyer Adam, who decides to take on Malina’s case and plead Stockholm Syndrome as her defense. But Adam is not all knight-in-shining-armor. He wants the fame winning should bring him.

And he wants the girl.

A thoroughly engaging Jonathan Silver, re-mixing the role he created in Canada, plays the sociopathic Ira/Dov as fifty shades of nuts to smarmy perfection. Whenever Silver is on stage, the impulse is to head to the showers to wash off the stench.

The she-said, he-said “Unseamly” is seamlessly directed as a no-frills production by a seemingly unsentimental Sarah C. Carlson.

What you see is not necessarily what you get.

“Unseamly” is now up at Frances Hill’s “Urban Stages” through November 8. (And to add to the must-see evening of theater, lawyers, educators, psychiatrists and sometimes Hill participate in talk-backs following many of the performances.)

A “Rashomon” about sexual harassment, Oren Safdie’s thought-provoking Unseamly is about the elusive, selective nature of memory in the age of Dov Charney, the ousted chief executive of American Apparel,” The New York Times.

And yes, on the surface at least, “Unseamly” is about sexual harassment and the grey area between “no” and “I didn’t know.”

It is also about what almost every great story is ultimately about: power and power plays.

The following is one of many raves, this one by Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal:

Oren Safdie, whose “Private Jokes, Public Places,” a coruscatingly witty play of ideas about starchitecture, was one of the highlights of 2003, is back in town. This time his target, though just as contemporary, is of potentially wider interest: “Unseamly” is a three-hander about a sexual-harassment case in which the harasser bears a distinct resemblance to Dov Charney, the ex-CEO of American Apparel, who got canned by his board last year for much the same kind of behavior and who, er, just happens to be Mr. Safdie’s cousin…

Continue reading here.

Note: For the record, Dov Charney claims to be innocent of all charges and has yet to lose a case in court. All suits against him have to date been dismissed or settled. This one was settled.


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