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'Intimacy' review: Faux sex in the suburbs

From left, Austin Cauldwell and Dea Julien in

From left, Austin Cauldwell and Dea Julien in "Intimacy" by Thomas Bradshaw at New Group. Credit: Monique Carboni

To say that "Intimacy" has the most realistic fake sex-play I ever saw onstage is not to judge. That's a description, not a morality statement. Thomas Bradshaw, whose previous attention-getting work has included incest ("Burning") and gory violence ("Job"), doesn't appear to be out merely to shock in this suburban comedy, in which family members and neighbors discuss and act out their urges and fantasies as forthrightly as characters in other plays might talk about dinner plans.

If Bradshaw is making a point -- beyond making light entertainment from unpredictable hookups -- he must be talking about the banality of hypocrisy in a world flush with Internet porn. He also pushes to absurdity the impact of wealthy, educated parents who just want their kids to "be happy."

Scott Elliott, ever-provocative director of The New Group, stages the work with the flat, good-natured look of a far more conventional play. Interiors of three family homes are melded together in split-screen scenes on Derek McLane's set. Three cutout houses hang on a tufted back wall.

A budding young filmmaker (Austin Cauldwell) and his crazed-widower dad (Daniel Gerroll) deal, with contrasting success, with mourning and masturbation. The women's studies professor (Laura Esterman) and her younger black husband (Keith Randolph Smith) deal in different ways with their 18-year-old daughter (Ella Dershowitz), a teen porn star. The Hispanic contractor (David Anzuelo) and his brilliant daughter (Déa Julien) deal with expectations, homophobia and racism.

There is genuine nudity, along with scatological chatter and extremely credible faux-sex. But when the special-effect sexual mysteries are cleared up and the blunt talk starts to feel normal, the results are unsettlingly ordinary.

WHAT "Intimacy"

WHERE The New Group, 410 W. 42nd St.

INFO $25-65; 212-244-3380;

BOTTOM LINE Porn goes to the suburbs.

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