Eric Bogosian’s ‘1+1’ Explores Abuse of Power and Accountability on Stage

It’s hard to grow up in New York City and not acquire some street smarts. I took city buses to and from school by myself at 10 years old, and rode the subway all over the city not long after. I always let my parents know where I was with my cell phone, and made sure I had my wits about me for my own protection. Not that I was overly concerned, just prepared.

Since I was a little girl, my mother taught me many things that were solely for my safety, information that she didn’t have to provide my older brother. Because as a boy who would eventually grow into a man, he statistically was at a far lower risk of violence and sexual attacks from men. Whereas she taught him how not to take advantage, I was taught how not to be taken advantage of. And so, from a young age, I knew:

  • Never talk to strangers
  • Always keep your wits about you
  • Stick to public locations with people you don’t know well
  • Have an exit strategy at the ready
  • Don’t accept drinks or drugs from anyone
  • Let people you trust know where you are at all times

The list goes on, but its purpose is to essentially prevent me from ending up a victim. And while I am glad I have enough mental toughness to stay out of dangerous situations to the best of my ability, the truth is, even if you take all preventative measures, not everyone can avoid being led astray by those with bad intentions.

Katie North & Daniel Yaiullo Katie North & Daniel Yaiullo

Premiering off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse, Eric Bogosian’s “1 +1” is a play that illustrates the nuances of an otherwise stereotypical predator and prey dynamic. Young and naive aspiring actress, Brianne, leaves her life in Phoenix behind her to move to Los Angeles and become an actress. Sure, she may be working as a server at a restaurant now, but that is only a stepping stone to stardom.

It was hard not to smile at Brianne (played brilliantly by Katie North), who was pretty, vivacious, and full of youthful optimism. But at the same time, I wanted to shake her for somehow not possessing even the faintest hint of street smarts or self-preservation skills. My mom (who was sitting right next to me) and I kept exchanging judgy looks that screamed, “Brianne, you’ll never make it in this world if you’re that trusting.”

Brianne meets Phil (chillingly portrayed by Daniel Yaiullo) as she waits on him at the restaurant where she works, and it takes no time at all for her to be lured into his trap. Phil oozes seediness, and I was reminded of every slimy sales guy I’ve ever encountered mashed together. Needless to say, I could smell his phony routine from a mile away, which is why it hurt all the more to see Brianne falling for it. His one redeeming quality was an admittedly charming British accent. Ultimately, Brianne is so smitten with even the teensiest bit of attention from him that it seems inevitable he will do whatever he wants to her. And she will be helpless to stop it.

Michael Gardiner Michael Gardiner

Carl (charmingly captured by Michael Gardiner), on the other hand, is Brianne’s supervisor at the restaurant. In practically every visible way, he appears to be a better person than Phil. He does partake in the consumption of internet porn and speaks to cam girls, and he clearly has a crush on Brianne, but he certainly doesn’t wish to harm her in any way. If anything, he tries to help her, even going out of his way to help boost her acting career. But Brianne rejects even the most well-intentioned of helping hands from Carl, which is a head-scratcher when you consider how readily she accepts “help” from Phil.

Brianne agrees to have Phil, who claims he is a photographer, take some headshots of her, at no charge. The whole situation is just a massive red flag, but perhaps Brianne’s attraction to Phil and her desperation to make it as an actress is what propels her forward. Her choice to trust him has a domino effect, one that leaves her violated, addicted to hard drugs, and overall a shell of her former self.

Five years later, Brianne is still madder at Phil for abandoning her than she is for him pressuring and manipulating her into making pornography for his financial gain. She admits that she has gotten clean in the past, but is struggling with a relapse. But it’s apparent that her addiction to Phil has never waned, not even for a second. Any resentment just seems to fuel her passion. And then there is Phil, who looks to be doing better than ever. In just a short bit of time, he has managed to erase nearly every trace of his past life, and seems to believe that he deserves redemption.

I hated the character of Phil, the sheer smarminess of him. How dare he pursue such an unsuspecting young woman and make her his conquest? Yes, Brianne could have made wiser choices, but why does society default to criticizing the choices of the abused rather than the abuser? I was guilty of it myself, I’m ashamed to say it. She should have known better, right? Since men are the biggest danger to women as a species, women have no choice but to adapt by behaving in a way that shields them from that reality, and minimizes any collateral damage. It is rare to see an abusive man like Phil brought to justice for his crimes, especially one with resources on his side. And so it’s women like Brianne who are left to absorb that horrendous behavior and hope that they can pick up the pieces. Not everyone is always so lucky.

Eric Bogosian’s “1 +1” is playing at the Soho Playhouse through March 19th. Get your tickets online HERE.

Gemma Lolos

Social Media Manager, City Pulse Editor + Staff Writer

Gemma Lolos is a fiercely proud native New Yorker who is devoted to the arts in all its many forms. She loves to sing and listen to music, read great literature, experience inspiring theatre and film, and stream addictive television. She works full-time as a Marketing professional in New York City and does freelance writing on the side. In her free time, Gemma tries to immerse herself in the New York arts scene as much as possible, eat great food, and travel whenever she is able.