Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

May 29, 2014

*Tarantino's Yellow Speedo*: new play about a secret world poly cabal

Here's the premise of Tarantino's Yellow Speedo, now running in its world premier in Durham, NC, through June 7th:

Set in the Olympic Village, a cell of international athletes train to become an elite task force of sexual operatives determined to bring down the divisions between countries.

This is done by the polyamory training handed down from a mysteriously vanished cult leader; trainers guide trainees through rotations of partnerings, on their way to becoming world-peace diplomats in a transnational, back-channel poly cabal.

That, folks, is what Kerista aspired to be. I wonder if it influenced the playwright, Monica Byrne? She knows her poly stuff.

An enthusiastic review appeared in the Durham arts blog The Five Points Star:

Make Love Not War

By Kate Dobbs Ariail

...It’s about sex, personal freedom, love, and the destruction of the nation-state, more or less in that order of importance. Speedo takes place in the Olympic Village, where athletes from many cultures receive some special training in polyamory and other forms of boundary-busting, taught by “ambassadors” from a cult idolizing a diver named Arturo Tarantino. Tarantino espoused a philosophy of separating oneself from artificial, fear-based constrictions like sexual monogamy and jealousy, and instead making love with many people. He believed that this would erase boundaries between people, lead to world peace and the dissolution of geo-political borders. He called his desirable state of loving psycho-sexual satisfaction “the zone.” One day Tarantino got so completely zoned out that, after executing an “impossible” perfect dive, he just disappeared in the bubbles. His yellow Speedo floated to the top, to become a relic for his followers, and a symbol awarded to trainees who see the light and take off their clothes for this new world order.

...The content, as illustrated by the preposterous story, has challenges for viewers all along the belief spectrum. Although the play declares the glory of polyamory, asserting its naturalness, it looks clearly at one of its costs. Main characters Khala (Nicola Bullock) and Mia (Caitlin Wells) start off as a happy married couple (trapshooters from Team USA); by the end, Mia’s wrecked and stranded on the shores of Khala’s new boundary-free world.

Structurally, the play is very clever.... Byrne and director O’Berski are very skilled at getting you to immediately suspend disbelief and go with the story.

...The only thing I found shocking was the play’s un-ambivalent declaration in favor of unprotected sex — no condoms for all these couplings. In fact, the play’s most memorable line, uttered by Khala after her training partnering with Suileman (Allen Tedder, very elegant), is about his having painted the walls of her vagina with semen graffiti. In Arturian Sex, not only must there be skin-to-skin contact, but exchange of fluids.

...And so impractical, as are the logistics of polyamory (love may be endless, but time is not), that one suspects Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo of being allegorical, on top of fantastical. There’s kind of a Liberty Leading the People quality to it, with the playwright waving the flag and urging the bold freedom fighters over the barricades. At any rate, there’re about five plays worth of ideas woven into 90 short minutes....

The ideas take precedence over relationship development. Khala and Mia are such interesting characters that – although Bullock and Wells were quite fine – I would have liked them to live more fully, to seem less like animations Byrne designed to illustrate her concerns....

...Preview night was sold out, and Manbites Dog reports that tickets for this weekend are nearly gone....

The whole review (May 23, 2014).


In the local Triangle Arts & Entertainment:

...Finding The Zone, or a place of openness, is strived for by six trainees, led by instructors. Arturo Tarantino (Liam O’Neill), the famed Italian diver, and creator of this “Arturian” philosophy of love and sexual liberation, has gone missing; the instructors continue the teachings and practice in his honor. And some of them are pretty intense in their dedication.

The piece, overall, is a love letter to non-monogamy; polyamory consultants were used in the creation of the piece. Byrne is a strong advocate for this way of life, and her passion for it comes through in the story.

...The trainees are randomly paired up, regardless of gender or orientation, over the course of three days. We see these first meetings, broken up between videos of the trainees giving their Olympiad bios; and we learn a lot about these people. Byrne does a fine job rounding them out and creating a fleshed-out batch of characters in 90 minutes, though her ambition to create such a multinational cast led to a fair amount of mediocrity in dialects, though it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the actors.

The actors also handle the sexual components of the show with a strong attack. There’s nudity, folks....

...Overall, Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo provides a necessary conversation on the current state and politics of sex and sexual freedoms, albeit in a clunky delivery at times. It does, however, continue to showcase Monica Byrne’s talents for addressing taboo topics in a fresh, engaging, and captivating way.

The whole review (May 25, 2014).


The mainstream Raleigh News & Observer considered the play mediocre:

Durham production of “Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo” amusing, muddled

By Roy C. Dicks

DURHAM — Is monogamy the best choice for maintaining relationships or can polyamorous coupling lead to greater understanding and caring?

...Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s brashly comic, sexually explicit production boldly stages the author’s ideas in often amusing, thought-provoking segments, but the script is not clearly focused and tries to do too much.

From left, Caitlin Wells as Mia and Nicola Bullock as Khala. (Alex Maness photo)

...The exercises are sometimes amusingly awkward, sometimes unexpectedly tender. There are unlikely pairings that work out (a German male cross-dressing wrestler and a South African female fencer) and some that don’t (a Ukrainian male badminton player and a Belizean female hammer thrower).

...The pursuit of polyamorous relationships is an arresting idea, but the Olympics context adds an expectation of fitness (not so for all actors) and of intriguing international differences (squandered here on easy jokes and inauthentic accents). The frequent nudity seems keyed more to each actor’s willingness rather than appropriateness for specific scenes.... Having Arturo appear behind the video screen as a god-like figure spouting his philosophies is amusing at first but becomes repetitive overkill.

...Byrne’s theme gets muddled between farce-like moments and deadly serious discussions. Audiences will find many laugh-worthy moments but may miss the take-away.

Read the whole article (May 23, 2014).


Two years ago, Byrne revealed the mythical backstory of the vanished Tarantino and the secret psychosexual Olympic world cabal (in Raleigh-Durham's Indy Week, August 8, 2012).


Saving the best for last: Matt in North Carolina alerted us, "The writer, director, and members of the cast appeared on NPR's 'The State of Things' [with host Frank Stasio] to discuss the play, and spoke very openly about polyamory and bisexuality — it was a pretty jaw-dropping interview for North Carolina."

Listen here: A New Play Mingles Sex And Diplomacy (19 minutes, WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, May 16, 2014).

Monica Byrne starts off the interview by saying that this is

a play that I thought of because I wanted to address the issue of polyamory in sort of a metaphorical dimension. It means a lot of different things to different people.... I wanted to bring it into a larger public consciousness through theater.

For a lot of people what [poly] means, and what it means to me, is having multiple partners but also being extremely open, and communicative, and kind, to everyone involved. Everyone is onboard. ...And it’s a way of developing long-term relationships, as much as monogamy is.

...The Olympics to me is a metaphor for this phase of my life where I find myself, where I’m in Durham, I’m surrounded by these incredibly beautiful, young, heroic — in my eyes — unmarried people, some of whom I’m involved with, some of whom I’m not, and people I go in and out of being involved with — and that sort of heroic mindset is what inspired the Olympic Village as the setting of this. It’s the sort of goddess and god worship that I find myself doing in Durham....

...Yellow Speedos are the equivalent of gold medals in this sort of underground cult world. If you have won the Speedo that means you have achieved The Zone, which means you’ve transcended possession, feelings of possession. And if you’ve won the yellow Speedo then you go on to be a diplomat in this elite diplomatic corps.

[On monogamy]: To me, when I realized that what I thought was [monogamous] safety was not at all safe, it was actually an extremely liberating moment. I wanted to share that, actually, with the world. That [monogamy] isn’t the way it has to be. That this isn’t the way that anybody has to be.

And my wish — I mean Jay and I have talked about what we want people to go away from this play with — is to just question where they fall on the [poly-mono] spectrum. I think a lot of people don’t question monogamy as the primary relationship model as much as they should. But polyamory and other forms of relationships have such a bad rap, that that prevents that style of love from going forward....

FRANK STASIO: Jay, how do you do that? When you introduce a kind of radical concept like this, a new idea for a lot of us, to take seriously... how do you manage that, as a director?

JAY O’BERSKI: With a lot of candy. Candy around the pill. ...If you can draw an audience in, so that they can hear a much deeper conversation and argument, then you can hook them. And so many plays don’t attempt to go deep with it.... In plays about sexuality, or say racism, there’s sort of a pat on the back with the easy answer. The obvious would be for everybody to realize that polyamory was just “a phase.” Something that selfish people do and then they grow up. Which I think was a bias that I had, and was interesting to explore and get over.

...BYRNE: One of the lines that Arturo comes back to is, “Love must flow in its proper channels or it will destroy the fabric of society.” Which is something his father told him, and something he’s rebelling against. That love just needs to be free-flowing, with no boundaries whatsoever. And you know, it’s kind of like extreme capitalism and extreme communism. The answer lies somewhere along the spectrum.

In polyamory there absolutely are rules of behavior. In fact far more so, I think, than in monogamy, because you have multiple partners. So you need to manage all of their feelings, and all of their expectations, and take care of multiple people, and make sure your needs are bring met in turn. So polyamory is absolutely its own system as well. It just means multiple partners instead of one.

Afterward, Byrne wrote about the radio interview on her blog:

If I could have [had] longer, and it could be edited down so that I’d sound intelligent, I’d talk about so many more things…my “conversion experience” in Belize. How love, monogamy, commitment, and sex are not bound together. How jealousy is an entirely bearable and in fact transformative experience. How everyone I’m with brings out different sides of me that I might not have ever discovered otherwise. How the emphasis on monogamy cheats both women and men. How true intimacy is possible in any relationship where kindness, honesty, and respect are present. How I feel deeply cared for, and care for others, deeply, in turn. How many dear friends I’ve made this way.

How happy I am to be a solo polyamorist.

How my saying that causes a huge range of reactions in people.

Including curiosity.

Getting psyched for the interview.




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