In Mercury Players Theatre's Peep, local playwright Douglas Holtz explores the genesis of an oddly symbiotic relationship between two young roommates, Billy and Summer, and then the fallout of 25 years of lies as we witness the near-implosion of a family. Billy suffers from haphephobia, a condition that means human touch makes him literally ill. When vivacious Summer moves in and the two develop tenuous feelings for each other, Billy's voyeurism and her willingness to accommodate him make for several sexy and funny moments.
Holtz provides astute observations on kinks, fetishes and family dynamics, but he could be more efficient in getting those messages across. Act one is a bit labored, while act two is more dynamic. Director Sadie Yi has made the interesting choice of shifting the actors into different roles. I thought this might be too gimmicky, but it works, and everyone in the cast does better in the later roles.
Molly Shulman, who first appears as Summer, comes on strong as the character pushes her way into Billy's life. Shulman is particularly funny when she positions herself on the couch in poses she hopes are casually sexy. Later, when she turns to Billy's dad for help, she nervously picks at the ruffle on her peasant skirt and conveys an endearing concern. In act two she is a sullen, goth teen, popping pills and spewing snark. With both characters, it's clear that Shulman is taking risks confidently.
Cassi Grey and Dean Nett first play Billy's parents, and then they capably take on the roles of the middle-aged Summer and Billy. Grey is appropriately overbearing and snide in the first act, but she really flourishes later as warmhearted Summer.
The set is cleverly done. It conveys the idea of rooms in an apartment while letting us take in the action as it's played out, especially a Peeping Tom scenario between bedrooms. Summer's costumes convincingly reflect late 1980s styles, but for some reason, Billy's mom wears a very dated ladies-who-lunch suit and hat, and by dated I mean 1950s, not 1980s. Peculiar.
As Billy, Jared Sigler plays an awkward character a bit too awkwardly, but when Summer tries to give him physical affection, he does strike the right note of revulsion and anticipation. He is much more believable later as Casey, a college student with secrets of his own.