Haskell King in Afterclap
Haskell King in Afterclap
A man awakens, naked, in the back room of a bar, a used condom still on his penis. Surprisingly, this has very little to do with the story he ends up relating in Daniel Reitz's uneven new solo play Afterclap, now being given a site-specific staging at the Seventh Street Small Stage, located in an actual back room at a bar.

It does, however, make for an attention-getting opening gambit -- as well as some funny moments when the unnamed man (played by Haskell King) first gets up and tries to remember where he is. But after an extended (and somewhat gratuitous) sequence of the man walking around without his pants on, he dresses and gets down to the business of telling his tale.

Details are gradually sketched in, sometimes in awkward expositional passages such as when he lists out his academic background and publications. He's a writer, two years out of college, who teaches a class once a week at a university in New York, and bartends at the bar where he's woken up. Curiously, he speaks in the second person, as if he's telling himself exactly what he did in an effort to remember it all and trying to discover why he didn't realize the potential consequences of what he was doing until it was far too late.

His story is not about the girl he just slept with, whom he can barely remember. Rather, it's about one of his female students, whose journal he possesses. He reads out passages in which it's quite clear she has a crush on him and he fills in some of the gaps in her story with his own recollections. He knows, for example, that it was improper for him to accept an invitation to a party she hosted, and of course far worse to then embark upon an affair with her slightly older sister (and roommate), who he would liaison with in various places. The student's discovery of the affair is a foregone conclusion, so it's in the details wherein the story lies. Some of Reitz's prose has an engagingly lyric sensibility, combined with a blunt description of the man's sexual activities with the sister. The conclusion of the tale, however, is both predictable and overly melodramatic.

Director Daniel Talbott has staged the majority of the performance with King seated at the edge of the stage, with no direct front lighting. This results in giving the performer a shadowed and hunted look that is appropriate, but also makes it harder to read his facial expressions, even in the small confines of the theater.

King speaks with a tone of self-loathing and regret that doesn't vary much throughout the 45-minute running time. His dialogue is sometimes mumbled, and a little more variety in his vocal patterns could help to inject some needed energy into the proceedings. There are a few moments of unexpected humor, which King handles nicely. In addition, the actor has a good emotional connection to the material, particularly during the moments in which the man becomes physically overwhelmed by what he is recounting.