Rope Running Out looks at love and sex in new ways

ROPE RUNNING OUT by Raf Antonio (lemonTree creations, 58 Stewart). Runs to June 10. $25. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Raf Antonios exploration of love, one of the oldest themes around, is unusual in both form and content, allowing him to approach deep and powerful questions about the notoriously slippery concept from fresh angles.

lemonTree creations walkabout show is performed for a small audience in four industrial basement rooms. Its plot follows an unconventional queer relationship between shy photographer Nacio (Augusto Bitter) and outgoing film composer (and self-described perpetual horndog) Felix (Allie MacDonald) that eventually also involves suave newcomer Lobo (Chy Ryan Spain).

The most intriguing character is Nacio because the nature of his relationship with Felix is at first a bit of a mystery. What seems to be a long-term open relationship ends up as something more complex and fascinating. The crux of the play is how the arrival of the persistent and flirtatious Lobo provokes Nacio to step out of his comfort zone and question his own boundaries, and how this affects his existing arrangement with Felix.

Antonios strong script sets up and slowly reveals compelling relationship and backstory details it also artfully depicts the tension, anguish and excitement that comes with grappling with who and how to love.

Director Indrit Kasapi uses the immersive aspect and dingy basement space well especially during a scene performed inside a freight elevator. The characters feel convincingly realistic and very relatable, but Kasapi also at times employs dashes of symbolism, especially in an early scene where Nacio gets high while playing Scrabble with Felix and sees an apparition of Lobo. Kasapi integrates the dialogue between Nacio and Lobo in a way that also makes sense from Felixs perspective its a risky choice, but it works nicely.

In the solid ensemble, Bitters conflicted Nacio stands out, and as a group they nail the dynamics that range from comedy to serious arguments to very sexual scenes (there is nudity).

Regardless of your orientation, preferences, identity or relationship status, Antonios script fleshes out essential questions about love and relationships in new ways that inspires critical and productive reflection.

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