Contact.com (Park Theatre)
Michael Kingsbury's play features strong performances but is somewhat uneven
Married, middle-class couple Matthew and Naomi aren't so much bored with each other, but "accustomed". They're in their forties and seeking out "improvements while keeping the infrastructure in place".
Such is the clinical rationale laid out in Michael Kingsbury's tangled play about the challenge of monogamy and one couple's desperate, if unorthodox, attempt to reinvigorate a marriage that has become staid over the course of fifteen years.
There's a distinctive whiff of lust in the air, as Matthew and Naomi anticipate and prepare for the arrival of their guests. Ryan and Kelly, a young couple from South London, bustle in, separately, for dinner in this plush Islington pad. The conventional collides with the unconventional over "loin of monkfish", as the couples engage in cross-couple flirting and reveal that they met online – each couple advertising themselves for one night of carnal pleasure.
Moments of propriety slice through the awkwardness of the set up, as Matthew politely interjects conversation with offers of drinks, and all the pleasantries offered by a hospitable host. It's the clash of manners with the underlying discomfort that creates a palpable, uncomfortable tension in the play. There also appears to be an apparent predisposed plan devised by the young couple, which is revealed by Ryan, who appears to toy with the couple using the trickery of a puppeteer. Disappointingly, the actual revelation isn't quite as dramatic as the promise relayed by Ryan (played by Ralph Aiken).
Jason Durr plays the contained and tortured Matthew with conviction, and he's supported well by Tanya Franks as Naomi and Charlie Brooks as the giggly Kelly. But with the writing uneven at times, it's difficult to be entirely absorbed by the events of that evening and the inevitable, if predictable, repercussions.
Imperfections aside, Contact.com emerges as an emotionally charged reminder that rationality and fantasies eventually entwine with encroaching realities. Here, the strings don't merely become attached, but tear and tug at vows and bonds.
Contact.com runs at the Park Theatre until 14 February