‘Circle Jerk’ returns for pride month in off-Broadway run

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

Fake Friends’, theater and digital media production company  avant-garde online play “Circle Jerk” is back for a strictly limited, off-Broadway Pride Month run at the Lower East Side’s Connelly Theater.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic closing shows and theaters in March 2020, this comedic play was written to be performed online and debuted months later over a video call. Since then, it became a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2021.

Writers Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley return with fellow Fake Friends member Cat Rodríguez to star in the show, all playing multiple characters. What’s different about this run is the option to watch the show “in the flesh” at the Connelly, in addition to the live-streamed, at home option, which is also broadcasted in the theater on a large screen.

The title refers to a self-indulging sexual act. The play’s three acts, all introduced by a vulgar, self-exposing troll, follow two self-centered but insecure white gay characters on the Gaymen Island, a retreat for the wealthy. They troll people on the internet with alternative-right content and meme-driven schemes for pleasure.

After “canceling” themselves for controversial comments, the men give their virtual assistant Alexia a humanoid form named Eva María to trick the public into believing alternative theories on social media about history and homosexuality.

They later encounter the real-life person whom they based Eva’s appearance on. The woman, who identifies herself as “Kokomo,” is as eccentric as the trolls, inflating her Nicaraguan identity for self-pleasure.

Given its virtual platform, the show takes an unconventional approach in performing. The play has the two men physically act on stage in the first act, but then relies more on a digital screen to portray the rest of the show, including video calls and short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram. Rodríguez’s characters appear almost exclusively on a digital screen.

This run includes updated jokes that reference the 2021-2022 Broadway season and popular culture. Audience members may recognize music from Bill Wurtz and a Eurobeat remix of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.”

The storytelling is quick-paced and may come off as strange with the cutaways to memes, but between the zesty one-liners and sassy dialogue, the story shares sincere messages about identity, appropriation, self-acceptance and to a lesser extent, gun violence.

There is a real resolution in the ending, with nods to the play “What the Constitution Means to Me” and the musical “Chicago.”

There are only a few late night performances left. Virtual attendees have the option to pay what they can, the minimum being $5. Students and people under age 35 also have access to $25 inperson rush tickets.

In the words of the vulgar troll, “Get ready to get gay,” because audience members are in for a wild and lively time.