MCC Theater presents Robert Askin's ('Hand to God') new comedy about our all-too-human impulse to make order out of the chaos of modern relationships. More…
Eric and Cyndy are looking for some direction. They’ve decided to follow the lead of their friends Zach and Shelley and make the real life practice of Christian Domestic Discipline the foundation of their marriage. But restructuring their lives and their union according to role play and a new moral code upends everything they knew - and took for granted - about one another, their friends, and more importantly, who really holds the power.
"Straddling the line separating ridiculous and real, 'Permission' is the kind of bizarre-yet-oh-so-truthful tale that could only spring from the deliciously demented mind of Robert Askins...Askins connects a tremendous amount of dots in two hours, keeping the audience in hysterics the whole time. If that's not a great night in the theater, I don't know what is." Full Review
"A knockabout farce (so to speak) in which things get out of hand with dizzying and delicious speed...Mr. Askins makes the mistake of closing with a what-it’s-all-about scene in which he tells you what he meant. I wish he’d now try his hand at a classic door-slamming farce in which he trusts the play to tell its own tale. This is, however, a quibble: 'Permission' confirms that he is a major talent in the making." Full Review
"Spanking and Christianity combine for unexpected laughs in 'Permission,' another explosive comedy from Robert Askins. Here, Eric and Cynthia are rescued by Christian Domestic Discipline — a real phenomenon that gives a whole new meaning to the expression 'Bible Belt'... 'Permission' lacks the tightly wound ferocity of 'Hand to God,' it’s still the funniest show of the spring, boosted by an excellent cast.” Full Review
"Clocking in at only an hour and forty minutes, including intermission, 'Permission' nevertheless takes a while to get to points we all know are coming; the expected laughs that come when one mixes pain and pleasure in the pursuit of spirituality...Still, at this point 'Permission' has enough to send audience members home delighted, offended or perhaps in the mood to experiment." Full Review
"The sex farce has all but disappeared from the contemporary stage, and those of you mourning its demise may want to check out 'Permission...' The play never digs deeply into the psyches of its characters, remaining content to exploit its gimmick for raucous, mildly raunchy comedy...Once the provocative conceit has been established, Mr. Askins doesn’t find any particularly revealing ideas to explore, letting the naughty novelty do most of the work. " Full Review
"Some of the scenes could use a little more shaping – certain openings fall flat and some of the endings do, too...The action climaxes in a rowdy, debauched dinner party. As there’s an unassailable theatrical maxim that no onstage dinner party can end well, this one degenerates swiftly and brutally. Despite a semi-redemptive coda, 'Permission' is a comedy that leaves bruises." Full Review
"Under the fast-paced direction of Alex Timbers, the ensemble delivers amusing performances...But despite their best efforts, 'Permission' doesn't live up to its potential. Those looking for real laughs from the subject matter would be advised instead to check out the website christiandomesticdiscipline.com which outlines its tenets with a seriousness that makes them all the more absurd." Full Review
"There is no faulting the acting, and the cast members manage to switch performance styles with great skill in accord with the play’s shifts in tone...The play makes it clear that it is the women who control the situation, and perhaps, given the play’s title, that is the key understanding we are meant to walk away with. As it stands, however, 'Permission' is in need of trimming and reshaping in order to bring it into focus." Full Review
"While there is a lot of funny business in 'Permission,' the comedy is not as imaginative and cohesive...The conclusion seems hasty and the playwright does not take his potentially unsettling story beyond its immediate domestic scene. Possibly the insufficiently provocative play would be improved if Askins would take another whack at it." Full Review
"An entertaining if undercooked tangle of ideas that don't fully cohere...While it moves swiftly and packs in the jokes, 'Permission' would benefit from some serious revisions...I found myself wishing for more nuanced characters, fewer cheap shots, and more thematic depth. There's a truly interesting, legitimately dark comedy lurking somewhere in the play." Full Review
"In the end, there’s not quite enough fun to be had from this Christian version of marital S&M, and strange to say, all the spankings (expertly choreographed and quite realistic, let it be said) become repetitive and pointless. What this comedy really could use are a few scenes in whatever church preaches this insanity." Full Review
"'Permission' doesn’t quite come together; the exposition often seems explanatory, and the second act doesn’t generate the momentum to put across the frantic, farcical finale. With a run time of just 100 minutes, including intermission, the play doesn’t feel full enough. With a bit more padding, it could land stronger blows." Full Review
"'Permission' is a wild comedy full of vulnerable characters who look normal at first glance. Alex Timbers' highly physical production highlights the mayhem to full effect...However, 'Permission' is very much a work in progress. The ending is abrupt, leaving many details unresolved, and the play may get too silly at times." Full Review
"I lived through it, I laughed occasionally, but I didn’t love it...All of 'Permission’s' actors are expert at blending the demands of farce with the hint of psychodrama. And the men explore amusingly the difficulties of bromance. But the evening is too cartoonish to amount to much: in its attack on religion, it’s a friendly slap more than a full-scale wallop." Full Review
"Unfortunately, 'Permission' is too much an idea still looking to morph into a play with interesting, sympathetic characters, a plot that goes somewhere, and laughs with a sharper satirical edge...I'll admit that the spanking that's an important part of the devout Christians' marriages Mr. Atkins explores strikes me too close to spousal abuse to be funny." Full Review
"It’s tough to figure out the point of 'Permission.' It’s one big muddle, made up of little muddles...The actors are all competent, the direction is brisk, the set design is efficient and occasionally clever. The production is polished, but Askins’ script is crude...The characters often don’t sound like educated professionals, much less pious people. And their concerns are not the stuff of great drama nor of satisfying comedy." Full Review
"The cast’s padded undergarments are indeed worthy of notice. Or at least they are more worthy of notice than the rest of the play, which in trying to bridge incompatible genres — you’ll forgive my saying — falls between the cracks...Perhaps further work on the play will prove that a better union can be achieved, but until then it may be advisable for the playwright — for his own good, of course — to invest in a pair of Shaper Panties." Full Review
"Feels unfinished, as if Askins had a flashy idea but never figured out with to do with it. Two married couples learn about the positives and negatives of a male-dominated cult that believes they are spanking for Jesus. Butt falsies, devised by costume designer Paloma Young to protect the actors, are impressive. That's about it." Full Review
"This scattershot show is undercooked and undisciplined...Askins peppers his script with references to CrossFit and kale. While up-to-the-minute, the script is also sloppy...Worse, the main theme is quickly abandoned when the spanking goes from a religious rite to merely being about sex kinks. Eric’s eager secretary is an obvious, and useless, plot device." Full Review
See it if an exploration of the roles of men and women in relationships and in religion appeals to you even if the show feels like a first draft.
Don't see it if you'd rather not see people being spanked, or you'd be bothered by a show not quite living up to its potential.
See it if you want to see what naughtiness writer Robert Askins (Hand to God) & director Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love) have come up with next.
Don't see it if you think flawed work with a promising premise shouldn't be permitted to move on to full production until it's been fully developed.
See it if you're ok w having Christian spousal discipline (husband of wife) treated as good. Male dominance, using degrading violence, isn't funny.
Don't see it if you find the premise fundamentally flawed. It may be a brand-spankin' new play, but promotes the old specter of males controlling females.