Jet of Blood, a 75-minute performance created by Mari Moriarty for two actors—a woman who plays Mari and a man who plays Brian Jeremy Gonzalez and all the other men Mari’s ever had sex with (which I guess means I’m represented in the show, something I just now thought of for the first time, though I’ve seen it six times)—is a tour de force if ever there was one. (I can’t resist quoting the late John Ashbery, who said of my 2013 novel An Honest Ghost that it “put the force back into tour de force.” Jet of Blood does likewise, and then some.) Through skillful use of music (from The Nutcracker, Mylie Cyrus, Borodin, Neil Young, The Magic Flute, The Ronnettes), dance, masks, monologue, pornography, simulated violence, and finally the gruesome mutilation of a squid that bears more than a passing resemblance to—well, never mind about that—Moriarty tells his truth about being raped at 14 in a private, typically negligent (or “press-shy”) New York City high school too posh for its own good.
¶ The first theatrical masterpiece of the #MeToo era, Mari’s Jet of Blood is more effective than any other work of art that I know of in its expression of that haunting, sad claim (“Me too” can sound like a long, moonlit howl, or like a lifeless shrug “of course”). Mari’s rapist, whose name we learn in the most dramatic possible way toward the very end of the show, when Mari comes on stage for the first time, as if to take a bow as the show’s creator and director, wearing a dress (Mari’s gender is non-binary). On the heels, so to speak (though Mari is barefoot), of some of the most shattering, painful images and symbolic, staged actions, of masked, sadistic men exulting in their brutality, of rape and its irreparable violation, suddenly this beautiful, long-haired young person—this supremely talented, ingenious, battered but still strong bulwark against pain and suffering, glowing with not just emotion and theatrical lighting but with poise and purpose and deep, eternal-looking confidence, eschews a bow, choosing instead to extend the show for its unexpected, shocking apotheosis, slowly lifting the dress up and casting it aside, revealing himself to his silent audience, which breaks at once into a long collective sob as we force ourselves to look at his exquisite body defiled by the ugliest of imaginable words in this context: BRIAN JEREMY GONZALEZ RAPED ME, an image of the unpunished rapist projected onto a large screen behind Mari, our first and last confrontation with him face to face. All at once, it’s all clear, and it is devastating. One wants to stop crying long enough to spit at the image, to curse it, though it sits safely high upstage, serenely made of nothing but light, protected by its ephemerality, its unreality, while so much flesh and blood and feeling stands before that light, witnessed by those of us sitting stunned before that remarkable naked artist: speechless, shaken, changed forever. Fired up. And for me, in love like I’ve never been in love before and never will be again, well, I’m thankful to whatever gods there may be that despite being unable to take away Mari’s pain, or his memories, or his nightmares, I can see him, and hold him, and listen to him, and hope that my love for him may one day soak through, like sweet bleach, and make that stain disappear, or almost.