Antagonym: (n) A word with two opposing meanings. Ex.: “Left,” as in, “I’ve left you” and “I’m left behind.”
In the world premiere of ANTAGONYMS, by Curio Theatre Company member and first-time playwright Rachel Gluck, our four characters embody such dualities. There’s unadventurous Mauve (Colleen Hughes); her slick brother, Dorian (Alexander Scott Rioh), who suddenly reappears after a 15-year absence; Jonny (Andrew Carroll), her self-loathing artist boyfriend; and Charlotte (Alexandra Spadoni), the freewheeling star of the show, whose desires are what cause most of the mayhem that ensues.
ANTAGONYMS is billed as a “modern-day noir.” Indeed, personal demons and ghosts from past lives emerge not in an elegant club, à la the oft-referenced “Casablanca,” but a Philadelphia dive bar called “Dead Ned’s,” where the characters (other than the recovering alcoholic) down tequila shots and Yuengling. Two of them also slink around the set and speak seductive riddles in affected tones — “I could spend the apocalypse making you moan,” says one to the other.
And yes, there’s a lot of sex. In fact, much of the play’s tension comes from who’s hooking up with whom, or who used to hook up with whom, and whether they’d still like to be doing so. There’s a slow build of this tension with some character development thrown in, until the play’s sudden end when it’s revealed that the past can’t stay left behind — a tragic orgasm.
Accordingly, it’s less satisfying than you’d like it to be. But the play’s messiness is what make it most lifelike. In the end, what are any of us but destructive dualities, fighting between our desires and our own self-interest?
[Curio Theatre Company, 4740 Baltimore Avenue] November 30-December 17, 2016; hcuriotheatre.org.