Dance Naked Productions' Inviting Desire takes as its starting point the idea that, while theater strives to induce a variety of reactions in its audience, sexual arousal is rarely one of them. And why not?
The response to that question might be, of course, that it's not terribly challenging to incite lust in an audience, and in fact Portland allegedly has more establishments per capita devoted to doing just that than any other city in the country.
What sets the ensemble piece Inviting Desire apart from the entertainment offered at Mary's Club, though, is that while Inviting Desire does explicitly aim to arouse its audience, it couples traditional titillations (sexy lingerie, sexy dancing, sexy boob touching) with disarmingly blunt expressions of female sexuality. Hostess Eleanor O'Brien leads the audience through a sort of sexy show and tell, as ensemble members take turns "describing" their fantasies. (While the ensemble wrote most of the work in the show, not every piece is performed by its author.) A commendably broad array of imaginings is presented here, from a relatively wholesome yoga orgy scene to a decidedly un-wholesome Minotaur rape fantasy. Some of the scenes are even more politically incorrect: a teacher imagines seducing a student; a white housewife has an Obama jungle fantasy. The question is raised, though not explored in much depth, of whether fantasies can be dangerous—whether it's acceptable for an adult woman to fantasize about fucking a teenager, for example. One wishes for a more in-depth exploration of these ideas, but then such discussion might be too heady for what is ultimately an extraordinarily visceral production.
The show runs a bit long, and not every scene works: A jokey bit about a "Vampires Anonymous" meeting feels distinctly less honest than the rest of the show, while a womyn-on-womyn dance number depicting the mating dance of two Lilith Fair lesbians (the unforgivable phrase "pussy of the earth" is used) is unintentionally hilarious. When the show works, though, it's riveting—whether it's a lesbian describing her fantasy of dressing like a boy and being picked up by a gay man, or ensemble member Tonya Jone Miller dropping her clothes to show a body covered with S&M scars, Inviting Desire is unlike anything else you'll see on a Portland stage—Mary's Club included.