Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 4.3.11
The Theatre at 30th Street, 259 West 30th Street
BOTTOM LINE: A slightly kinky and lightweight story about a woman who is trying to keep her occupation as a dominatrix a secret from her new friends.
Sex on Sunday is about a woman named Laila (Amber Gray) who has just moved in to an affluent and diverse neighborhood (I’d say it's some enclave of the Upper East Side), where the three local ladies are eager to know everything about her. Worried that they will judge her, Laila avoids telling them that she works as a dominatrix. Laila’s secret is quickly complicated by the fact that her newest client is also the husband of Odette (Nedra McClyde), the most prim and proper of her new friends. And, while Laila tries to keep her work and home life separate, she faces a new challenge when one of her clients falls in love with her (nothing new) and she realizes she has feelings for him too (that’s a first).
This play is sure to appeal to a specific audience, people who can’t get enough of those slightly naughty love stories with many twists and turns (think of the similarly-titled Sex and the City). Audiences will further benefit from the fun design elements (just rough enough to have that off off Broadway charm) that you don’t get out of the television or movie experience. Jay Rohloff’s set portrays Laila’s and Odette’s neighboring apartments with the dominatrix studio fixed above. The handful of bedroom scenes take place on a bed that rolls out of one of the walls, making for some surprising and funny scene transitions. There are also a few fantasy sequences in which stiletto shoe puppets dance around on their own. In one particularly amusing scene, the shoes surround Price (Benton Green) while he is in a business meeting, showing us what is really on his mind.
The opening scene in the dominatrix studio might be shocking for some, simulating the not-so-careful placement of a shoe into a delicate place, as well as a quick glimpse of full-frontal male nudity. This doesn’t persist, though, and the rest of the show would probably warrant a PG-13 rating if it were on film.
While Sex on Sunday is fun and kinky (in a mostly innocent fashion), it isn’t a show that I would recommend to someone who sees a lot of theater or prizes a fully realized story. Chisa Hutchinson’s script seems to focus more on delivering zingy one-liners than on creating a tight and believable plot line. In fact, I found myself a little annoyed at how nearly every scene ends mid-conversation when a character delivers an important line, preventing the relations between the characters from developing more fully. This sense of incompleteness is true of the story as a whole, too, which resolves much of the conflict through hypothetical dialogue rather than onstage action.
It is unfortunate that Laila, the protagonist, is the least interesting character, and also that she is played by Gray, who gives the least enthusiastic performance in the show. What may have been intended to be Laila’s cool dominatrix demeanor comes across more as Gray's boredom or nervousness, which is only partially balanced out by the quirky characters around her, all played by enthusiastic performers. Lolita Foster and Jeremy Rishe stand out as Stacy and Matt, likely because they have the most complex and nuanced characters to work with. Racquel (Nyahale A. Allie) is also pretty amusing with her frequent wig changes and sassy attitude.
If you’re not too picky about plot or character development, Sex on Sunday could be a good choice for a bachelorette party, girls’ night out, or some similar occasion. Take advantage of the beer for sale at the ticket booth and get your buzz going. Afterwards, you can head straight downtown to the meatpacking district and dance the night away. You certainly won’t feel burdened by this show.
(Sex on Sunday plays at The Theatre at 30th Street, 259 West 30th Street, through April 3, 2011. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 7 PM. General admission tickets are $18 and can be purchased by visiting SmartTix.com or by calling 212.868.4444. For more information visit www.thebecompany.org.)