Please Me

Das Sofortvergnügen (The Instant Pleasure) Teases and Pleases

· Updated on October 4, 2023

Author’s Note: I am friends with the creatives behind this show, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and needed to write about it, so do with that information what you will.

I once mused to a former friend that what they don’t tell you about longing is that it’s basically boring to everyone else who’s not involved. The repetition, the ceaselessness, the monotony of wanting. I’ve probably said that to several friends: it was boring when I said it then and it’s boring now. Whether the yearning is for someone else, for something internal, or for separate, third thing that one can’t find the language for, the experience is as abjectly unpleasant as it is intoxicating. Longing is the dankest giffed meme on a loop for eternity, its scuzzy resolution only revealing the degree to the lover’s desperation in the same form, over and over again. It’s unhinged and bland at once, and however often we try to convey the depths of our pining, it will sound either too crazed to be spoken aloud or too dull and pedestrian for anyone to care. The worst parts about desire—and its sister when sated, pleasure—are the extremes. 

In Das Sofortvergnügen (The Instant Pleasure), performance artists and theater-makers Cosimo Pori and Travis Amiel put all that cringe on stage with ludicrous and enthralling gusto. Comprised of eternal questions about the human need to be wanted, to grow, and capture transient pleasure and then baked in the oven of the Internet, the pair violently vacillate between the horrific exposure of making wanting known and the sly skepticism that comes with the awareness of being open when such rawness is easily commodified or, at least, replicated and sent out into the ether as another kind of shell. 


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A post shared by Cosimo (@cosimopolitan)

Primarily in flimsy maid outfits, with Brooklyn-apartment ready plants behind them, Amiel and Pori’s experimental piece jumps from monologues, recitations, performance of memes, clowning, sketch scenes, and dance, all performed with the kind of thrall and dizzying energy of a scroll through your friend’s deep fried, web-addled brain. They start with a list of the simple pleasures (“a surprise discount, applied at checkout; that’s amore! ripping off a scab to find perfectly healed skin underneath; that’s amore!”) to a thread that runs throughout the show depicting two people navigating the rocky terrain of modern dating (planning, canceling, planning again.)

It isn’t merely recognition of these quotidian moments, especially those spoken aloud, which makes the show, but their inventive abstraction. Those moments just hang in the air with barely any context, and yet the sting or tension they evoke works in both the micro and macro. It’s a hurricane of a live tailspin, drawing from Charles Ludlam, Britney Spears, and Roland Barthes. 

Primarily in flimsy maid outfits, the piece jumps from monologues, recitations, performance of memes, and dance, all performed with the dizzying energy of a scroll through your friend’s deep-fried, web-addled brain.

 In one moment, Amiel takes on the gravelly voice of a detective out of a film noir, convening with a femme fatale. It’s instantly subverted, only for the scene to reveal that the character is a “victim of his own expectations”, twisting the genre’s tropes to unearth the show’s take on projection and self-perception as we engage with it now, filtered through a litany of other sources and meditated platforms. In another scene, Pori speaks to the audience about being a “reply gxy” (pronounced like “reply guy”,) the kind of person whose longing for someone they barely know and primarily have conceived of through the internet. It’s a soliloquy that at once slashes its knife’s blade against an obnoxious narcissism and self-interest, but gradually divulges extremely human, textured feeling of a fractured self and the technological and cultural landscape that has splintered the way we form connection.

If the internet is the architect of the shambolic house, its inhabitants are dancing in the rubble. 


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A post shared by Travis Amiel (@heytravistravis)

The funny, and perhaps occasionally frustrating, thing about Das Sofortvergnügen (The Instant Pleasure) is that it’s written and performed with such cleverness, with such existential restlessness, that its manner of disclosing sincerity takes getting used to. Underneath a lasagna’s worth of ironic layers, there is a point in the show at which it appears to be raising an eyebrow about its own enterprise: to baldly and boldly exclaim the contradictions of living, that “the cruelty of compliments, is that they only last for so long. their protection wanes, and then you’re back to wondering…did I do a good job?” Is it cringe to say it’s cringe to say it’s cringe to admit to that kind of feeling? How much remove can you have when interrogating the way a sense of removal is many younger people’s default way of engaging with those feelings that are so tender and brittle until you become the thing you’re satirizing?

If the internet is the architect of the shambolic house, its inhabitants are dancing in the rubble. 

For all of its smirking impishness—at one point, they perform Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music”… on their asses—Amiel and Pori’s sense of embodiment keeps the show from careening off the edge(lord.) They move about the stage with striking adroitness, whether a dance from a gif or bolting from an Elvis move. The path to self-determination and self-actualization is so much more treacherous now, so much more labyrinthine. In our most deranged time, inundated by Shrek memes and messages left on read, both Amiel and Pori have an uncanny way of letting the irony wear off over time, the cracks in their masks spidering out, letting something sadder, quieter, less manic leak through.

On stage, they’re alone together. Suddenly, when they’re on the stage, their otherworldly chants about a life best lived feel like prayers. 

Das Sofortvergnügen (The Instant Pleasure) is playing as a part of The Exponential Fest in New York on Feb 2 – 4. 

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