In Michael Domitrovich’s play Artfuckers, now playing at DR2 Theatre in Union Square, we get a look into the lives of the children of New York’s most elite artists, and their struggle to make a name for themselves in today’s commercialized art world. And whether you love or hate these privileged, snarky youth, Domitrovich-himself a member of this elite set-will make you pity their grasping attempts to live up to their parents’ expectations and accomplishments.
In the play, Will Janowitz plays Owen Fitzgerald, a young visual artist facing a crisis of self after his latest show is panned in a 10-page article in Artforum Magazine. Although every piece in his show sells-"even the big one"-Owen must face the possibility that it is his image, and not his art, that people want to possess. He also must tackle past demons; his father, a brilliant concert pianist at Lincoln Center, was panned, went crazy, and was later killed by train-hopping hobos.
Owen’s character is likely modeled on young artists like Dash Snow, the enfant terrible graffiti artist turned mainstream art world hero profiled in New York Magazine in 2007. (He is mentioned by name in the play).
In the midst of his crisis, Owen is unfortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of friends so shallow, they make Lindsey Lohan look like a Rhodes Scholar. These kids have the right names, the right parents, and live at the right addresses, but are fundamentally broken as people. As Owen aptly says in the first minutes of the play, "When everything around you sucks, how can you be sure it’s not you?"
His beautiful, vapid girlfriend Bella (Nicole LaLiberte), the self-professed "queen of everything below 14th Street," is as quick to dis her troubled boyfriend as she is to dish on the party they will attend at Nobu for Candy Bushnell. As he falls to pieces and overdoses, she is busy fucking his best friend, DJ Trevor IV (Asher Grodman).
Bella’s sister Maggie (Jessica Kaye) is a public relations wiz who lives for the sale, saying, "it’s not the profit, it’s the process" that gets her hot. Starting early, with her childhood ploy to sell her sister Bella for $20 at her parents tony cocktail parties in their White Street loft, Maggie has discovered that "if you give people the right info in the right way, you can make people’s mouths water over something they didn’t even know they wanted."
Maggie is currently invested in selling "Sauvage Royale," the new fashion line created by their fey friend Max (Tuomas Hiltunen), a German-Israeli fashion wunderkind who sells his ass for lace and linen.
As Owen descends into self-obsessed self-abuse, his friends rally to produce the perfect runway show for Max’s Fashion Week debut. DJ Trevor splits his time between erotic asphyxiation with Bella, and finding the perfect "dirty, real" beats for Max’s show. Bella balances her days between mocking everything, including a pair of shoes she deems "gay," and showcasing the longest, most well turned out pair of getaway sticks to have ever emerged from beneath a silver sequined miniskirt. Maggie focuses on pleasing Max’s whims for muddy models sans shoes, and convincing Owen to get to work on the backdrop for the runway show-even using her body to try and fill the vacuous hole in his life.
Still, Owen-the only character even willing to explore anything "real" in his world-is basically damaged, wrapped up in the very wires that comprise his awful, immature artwork. When he overdoses on a combination of ketamine, ecstasy, Valium, acid, mushrooms, cocaine, and children’s Tylenol, he learns that you can’t say what you mean, you just have to do it. Laid out atop the steel rolling table in the center of the sparsely set stage, Owen manages to use his torment to free his artistic soul.
The giant Easter Island-esque heads he designs for Max’s successful runway show are showcased at The Whitney, and through the critics’ remarks projected on the backdrop, we learn that his suicide attempt has only added to his mystique. (We also learn that, unfortunately, even torment gets old fast.)
Throughout the play, the actors often break the fourth wall, addressing the audience as if it were a press line. This device only reinforces the idea that these children of New York’s liberal elite are constantly under watchful eye of a media wanting to see them succeed, or even better, to see them fail.
This talented group of young actors makes the most of exposing the seedy underbelly of the New York art world in a way accessible to us all. And under the direction of the talented Eduardo Machado, "Artfuckers" is elevated from just another story of page six socialites jockeying for their place beyond the velvet rope to something we can all relate to-the story of a group of children searching for their parent’s approval.