By Joelle Arqueros; Directed by Brian Remo
Off Broadway, Monologues
Runs through 3.13.14
Jerry Orbach Theatre, 1627 Broadway, 3rd Floor
by Eleanor J. Bader on 2.28.14
BOTTOM LINE: Twenty-seven short monologues illustrate the ups-and-downs, pushes-and-pulls, of platonic and romantic engagement.
If you spend any time listening to the claptrap of popular culture, it’s easy to get hoodwinked into believing that love is all you need. Were that this was true... But even if we understand that finding real fulfillment and happiness is far more complex, most of us spend part of our lives searching for someone -- or sometimes several someones -- with whom to share the highs, lows, and in-betweens.
Sex, Relationships, and Sometimes...Love mines this reality, with 22 actors ably, if not exceptionally, depicting the healthy, unhealthy, and absurd aspects of dating, coupling, and trying to make it work. For the most part, the skits are engaging, well-written, and easy to relate to. What’s more, the audience gets to witness pathology, and perhaps commiserate, as both women and men expose their vulnerabilities and innermost desires. Needless to say, humor is on occasional display as the games we play and the rites we observe are simultaneously lampooned and honored.
Of course, not every vignette will resonate with every viewer, but the wide swath of depicted experiences is meant to offer something for everyone. The bare stage -- save for chairs there are no sets or props -- means that all attention is focused on the actors themselves.
There are a few stand-outs. On the comedic end, Nadiya Braham and Dave Duncan are hilarious as Wonder Woman and Orgasm Man.
As for the dramatic, among the most poignant is Kara Wilson’s Ally, a mournful lament for a deceased childhood friend whose naked body was found in the Hollywood Hills. As Wilson reminisces about ditching school, drinking, and getting high with her pal, the there-but-for-luck bell tolls. “If I’d never left Hollywood and come to New York maybe she’d still be here with me right now,” Wilson cries. “Or maybe I could be with her.”
Kristina Hernandez is similarly powerful in "Bulgarian Princess." In this scene, she is at dinner with her boyfriend, his older brother and the brother’s girlfriend, celebrating said girlfriend’s birthday. The fact that the GF’s adoring family has come to the US from Bulgaria to celebrate this event sends Hernandez into something of a jealous rage. After all, her own father abandoned her, her stepfather took off, and she has never received the nurturing she craves. Why, she wonders, do some kids get love and others not?
Of course, there is no answer for Hernandez’s question. And it’s not the only conundrum that arises in Sex, Relationships, and Sometimes...Love. For example, why are we attracted to one person, but not another? Why does our heart begin to flutter uncontrollably during some encounters? What can Cupid possibly be thinking? Writer Joelle Arqueros knows better than to posit a guess and instead provides an open tableau of possibilities.
Matthew Rae’s "Awakenings" is one of the show’s most nuanced pieces. In it, he speaks of falling head-over-heels in love with a man. Nonetheless, residual feelings of guilt continue to surface. Indeed, before meeting Brett, he’d been dating a woman -- a lovely, sensitive gal who’d suspected nothing about Rae’s true sexual leanings. In fact, she’d expected him to propose.
One feels sympathy for both Rae and his female ex -- neither of whom did anything wrong, but who still caused emotional distress in one another. Pain is also on display in Steve Lemenille’s "Sumi’s Hands," the anguished testimony of a priest who admits his longing for physical intimacy—and it is one of the pieces that I wished had been more fully developed. Likewise, both Patrick Schladebeck’s turn as an incestuous dad in "Morning Sun" and James P. Walsh as a controlling boyfriend in "She Can’t Be Trusted" offer ample fodder for longer, more evolved monologues, rather than the three-to-four minute snippets we get here.
All told, the variety-show format of Sex, Relationships, And Sometimes...Love works, but my personal preference would have been for fewer vignettes and a mix of longer and shorter works. After all, relationships are not formulaic—why should a play about them be any less varied?
(Sex, Relationships, and Sometimes...Love plays at the Jerry Orbach Theater, Snapple Theater Center, 1627 Broadway, Third Floor, through March 13, 2014. Remaining performances are March 6th and March 13th at 8PM. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 212.921.7862.].