The category of loves that dare not speak their names, at least from American theater stages, keeps shrinking. In 2002, Edward Albeeâs âThe Goat, or Who is Sylvia?â presented a married architectâs affair with a barnyard animal as a means of exploring the limits of erotic tolerance. âInanimateâ takes this investigation a step further, with a fractured lyricism all its own.
The brave new world â or perhaps not so new, just previously unmentionable â that Mr. Robideau has ventured into is clinically known as âobjectum sexuality,â or objectophilia. As Erica eventually discovers, it is a condition that now has its own websites, online forums and support groups; it has even been the subject of documentaries, such as âStrange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower.â
Clinical, though, is definitely not the word for âInanimate.â As directed by Courtney Ulrich and performed by the Bats, the Fleaâs young resident acting company, this play unfolds as a sort of normcore comic variation on âRomeo and Juliet,â which insists we regard its central relationship as worthy of high flights of poetic fancy.
Such a perspective could so easily lean toward smirky voyeurism or cloying cuteness. And in the opening scenes, I worried that a perverse preciousness might dominate.
But âInanimateâ wins us over by contextualizing its exotic subject in the bedrock of the familiar. Subjectively, most of us went through what Erica is experiencing when we were teenagers,…