Winged wanderlust takes flight in ‘The Dragon Play’

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This is a play about dragon sex. And whatever you think that means, you’re wrong.

“The Dragon Play,” a 70-minute drama in one act, tells the story of forbidden flames between humans and dragons. The play, directed by Tracy Ward and written by Jenny Connel Davis, is hosted by Impact Theatre, which produces shows in an intimate black-box theater directly underneath La Val’s Pizza on Northside.

“The Dragon Play” follows the fantastical interspecies relationships between a wistful wife, her easygoing husband and an impassioned, nonhuman ex-lover of hers who visits them for the night. A parallel storyline in the play also tells of a desire between a human boy and a young female dragon.

Aside from the dragon girl, who wears waist-length, knotted, intertwined braids and an earthy-toned vest and skirt, the actors look as though they could be any bunch of late 20-somethings who wandered downstairs after grabbing a slice of pizza.

The five-person cast of “The Dragon Play” is not confined to a stage — they lunge, leap, swoosh and dance all around the floor of the space.

Unfortunately, the wife (Sarah Coykendall) comes across as extremely forced and stiff throughout the play. It is hard to separate the hot-and-cold nature of her character from the lack of subtlety and nuance in her performance.

The dragon girl, on the other hand, is all fire. Lindsey Schmeltzer plays a snarling, devious young dragon with a fresh-faced curiosity about the human world. While her body language is proud and strong, Schmeltzer portrays an innocent, lovely creature. Her delivery of wandering monologues may be forced, but she commands a seamless, convincing presence in the room. Neither she nor the male dragon (George Sellner) wear wings as part of their costumes, but when she shrugs her shoulders, one can feel airy wings unfurling and catching air. Her control and strong awareness of movement is one of the more memorable parts of the show.

She meets and becomes fixated with a young boy (Jed Parsario) who is equally smitten with her. She disappears shortly thereafter but promises to return; dragons are migratory creatures. But she doesn’t reappear until he is a bitter teenage boy with teenage hormones. The unequal power dynamic is unsettling, but the boy and dragon girl have extraordinary chemistry and tension.

The play is less of a romance than a seduction — it is all about the physical attraction. You can see this gut-wrenching attraction split across the boy’s face whenever he interacts with the dragon girl. In a moment of what I hope was supposed to be comic relief (things got plenty tense in that small space), the boy takes the better part of a minute to fake an orgasm when the dragon asks what it’s like for humans. She then shrugs, and says, “Ours are better.”

Which brings us to the dragon sex — I’m sure you’re wondering. The how of it is actually the keystone of the entire production, so you’ll just have to see for yourself. Although I will say that the show is anything but pornographic. Still, probably not a great idea for a first date.

While it is uncomfortable at points and may elicit some quiet groans from scenes that are obvious or overacted, “The Dragon Play” is smart, ambitious and gives the viewer a lot to unpack after the curtains close. It requires of the audience an open mind and the curiosity to learn what happens when a person falls in love with a creature with wings.

“The Dragon Play” runs until Dec. 14 at Subterranean, located in the basement of La Val’s Pizza. Advance tickets are $15 for students and $20 at the door.

Contact Sarah Goldwasser at [email protected].