Brandt Johnson and Alex Kilgore in JUST SEX.
BOTTOM LINE: A clever script and a talented cast make this comedy centered around a married couple pushing the boundaries of monogamy highly entertaining.
The sold out shows and lines of ticket buyers for Just Sex prove that sex certainly does sell, even when it comes to theater. Just Sex, which explores a couple’s attempt to explore sexual satisfaction outside of their previously monogamous relationship, certainly does play to salaciousness, but also presents plenty of highly laughable scenes and a few moments of insightful honesty as well.
The story opens with Kurt (Alex Kilgore, who also directed the play) shouting emphatically the word “porn” at his best friend William (playwright Brandt Johnson). Apparently, porn is part of Kurt’s explanation of just how he manages to keep himself sexually satisfied all while maintaining his monogamy to his long term girlfriend. Soon we learn that Kurt does more than just look at porn, he engages in cyber sex with women around the world; this act has been upgraded since the days of chatrooms, with photos, Skype and webcams providing visual stimulation. Kurt assures William that looking at porn and engaging in cyber sex will be a way to experience sex outside of his marriage to Katherine (Tasha Lawrence) without ever having to cheat on her. William confesses that he believes that even just masturbating to porn counts as being unfaithful to his wife.
However, with his interest piqued, William explores the pornographic offerings of the internet. He feels such guilt for his actions that he confesses them to Katherine. Katherine, however, isn’t upset at all by William’s confession and reveals that she too desires to seek out sexual stimulation outside of their marriage. “I think out of concern for doing anything that might not be precisely what you would have wanted me to do at a given moment, I kind of shut myself off at times," Katherine confesses.
Katherine soon reveals that she has been able to maintain her monogamous relationship by also using the internet as a means of sexual release. Apparently, similar to Kurt, she has been engaging in cyber sex with men found via a sex chat site. Katherine apparently forgoes photos of her face, sending instead close-ups of her vagina (this fact will later lead into a particularly amusing plot twist). Wiiliam follows suit signing up on the same adult site. In a particularly hilarious scene Kurt, ever the experienced Internet lothario, coaches William through snapping a photo of his penis, uploading it as his profile photo, and giving him the screen name “Stiff Dick.”
Katherine and William attempt to rearrange their marriage by deciding to allow each other room to explore their sexual desires online. The two sit side by side at their computers, calling out messages from their would-be sexual partners. William soon expresses a desire to do more than just play online with other women, he wants to meet them in real life and sleep with them. Katherine agrees so as long as she is allowed to sleep with someone else as well. "I really want you not to have sex with other men. And I really want to have sex with other women,” William confesses to Katherine. Katherine tells him he will have to decide which he wants more.
Soon enough, William is sleeping with 21-year old Amanda (Meghan Miller), a woman who contacted him via the website. The depictions of their sexual activities seem to be more laughable than arousing, with Amanda preferring to take on the persona of a bratty high school girl. After the first two encounters, William is hooked on Amanda, finds he can’t stop thinking about her and wonders if he might be in love. At one point William stares into the blue of his computer screen listening to a scientific explanation for how the hormones and chemicals released during satisfying sex create the feeling of love. William stares helplessly, wondering if it is possible that he could love someone besides his wife.
Just Sex hints at making honest, poignant, statements about the questions surrounding marriage and monogamy in our contemporary, technology saturated era, but ultimately casts them aside in favor of salacious comedy. While, much of the script is rather laugh-inducing and rife with clever dialogue, the play might have been more powerful had Johnson chosen to explore some of the questions raised by his play regarding marriage and monogamy. Nonetheless, this play is packed with talent. Tasha Lawrence is particularly convincing as a hip wife trying to defy the confines of marriage. Alex Kilgore milks every laugh from Johnson’s amusing script (and directing a play you also happen to be starring in can’t be easy).
(Just Sex plays at Theater For the New City, 155 First Avenue, through April 15, 2012. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8PM. Tickets are $25 and are available at smarttix.com or by calling 212.868.4444.)