Permission: Spanking for Jesus at the Lucille Lortel Theater

05/26/2015 08:42 am ET | Updated May 26, 2016

Whatever special kinks spice up your sex life, the particular coupling of spanking and faith in Robert Askins' play Permission will having you laughing -- and googling "Christian domestic discipline" (CDD) at intermission. Who knew this was a real-life church-sanctioned practice? In its world premiere at the Lucille Lortel Theater, under the direction of Alex Timbers, the MCC production of Permission, penned by the Hand to God playwright, relies on the conceit that marital bliss can be found if the husband assumes authority in marriage by acting like a man -- that is, disciplining his wife with a firm hand (or belt) on the butt.

Act I: Two couples having dinner. The host asks his wife to the kitchen. Behind a scrim a battle ensues. Shelley (Nicole Lawrence) has forgotten to bake some gluten-free rolls, and Zach (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) must punish her. Rather than suffer the humiliation, she seems to relish every moment. The other couple -- Eric (Justin Bartha), a college teacher looking for a promotion, and Cyndi (Elizabeth Reaser), a procrastinating novelist -- try it out. They raise their game and love life through this practice -- that is, until all hell breaks loose in Act II.

Fans of Hand to God will recognize familiar themes of sin and redemption in Permission. As in Hand to God, sex is wildly -- if uncomfortably -- funny, as it would be to witness what goes on privately behind closed doors, maxed out by a fine ensemble cast. A plot twist involving Jeanie (Talene Monahan), one of Eric's students, seems pulled from the headlines and doesn't quite land right. But otherwise this is a riot of a show and, at least for the first act, a voyeur's tour de force.

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