Who’s keeping count? The Sexual Life of Savages tackles sexual promiscuity
The existential double standard that subsists among men, women, and sex creates a flurry of unending debate as to what is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to gender roles. A man who sleeps with many partners is labeled as the “alpha male” while a woman who demonstrates the same behavior is looked down upon and essentially “slut-shamed.”
Sex, a former taboo, now makes headlines and drives box-office hits. Generation Y is the first generation that challenges what is deemed to be the norm. These millennials are self-motivated, independent, and unflinching: an era of women breaking away from adhering to social expectations and subsequently having more sexual partners than men. And some men are having an issue with that.
The script is freshly “in the moment” after being developed through the Skylight Theatre Company’s INKubator series. This company’s Producing Artistic Director, Gary Grossman, sees to it that they produce at least four new plays a year and this one is their third. If it comes close in critical acclaim to the first two that were released in 2014, they’ll have another hit.
The Sexual Life of Savages offers an in-depth look at the tension that arises when the main character, everyman Hal, discovers that his girlfriend has had more sexual partners than he. The stellar cast includes Luke Cook, Burt Grinstead, Melanie Lyons, T. Lynn Mikeska, and Melissa Paladino, with direction by Elina de Santos.
Playwright, Ian MacAllister-McDonald, shares his thought process behind the establishment of this invigorating world premiere production at the Beverly Hills Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Q: Was there a defining moment or particular experience of yours that prompted you to write TSLOS?
Ian: I was originally asked to write a play by some actor friends living in New York. There were 5 actors and a director, and I tried to write a play that would showcase their particular gifts, and which could be produced on a limited budget. All my other plays before this one had been grounded in some kind of formal genre (Domestic Horror, Modern Fairy Tale, Noir, etc.), which didn’t seem appropriate for this group of people since it would most likely put the emphasis on the writer/director and not on the actors.
At the same time I was reading a book called Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, and found myself fascinated by the way it explored a kind of moral relativism within the context of human sexuality. The book challenged me, and left me with a number of unanswered questions, which I guess I tried to work out in this play. As the writing continued, I fell in love with the characters, their neuroses and their struggles, and that’s really what’s kept me writing the subsequent drafts.
Q:What message do you hope viewers will take from this play?
Ian: I’ve never aspired to write message plays, or plays that tried to offer a solution to a problem. For me, at least, that’s when Art starts to feel a little like propaganda (even if it’s well-intentioned propaganda). I hope people leave the theatre feeling entertained, and arguing with the people in their little theatre-going group about their own personal experiences, what they’ve meant and what constitutes the “right” way to live ones romantic/sexual life. I hope the play is a catalyst for people to look inward.
Q: Are the characters inspired by your own experiences or of someone you know?
Ian: I hope the answer doesn’t feel evasive or glib, but honestly, if I didn’t relate intimately to each of the characters, I wouldn’t have written them. I feel like they’re all (in one way or another) extensions of myself, and my own personal experiences.
Q: Hooking up has become a prominent lifestyle in this generation. Why do you think this is so?
Ian: I’m tempted to say that it’s a result of growing cynicism towards marriage, traditional values, and religion, as well as increased access to post-secondary education, travel, and a general desire to postpone settling down because we sense that there’s always something better just around the corner. I could say that we’re a society motivated by immediate gratification and a fear of commitment. Or, it’s because of all the stuff I feel like we all suspect and hear spouted off by sociologists from time to time.
And yet, at the same time, there’s also the part of me that wants to flip things around and deconstruct the question itself: What do you mean by “This generation?” 1960s/70s counterculture seemed pretty cool with hooking up with multiple partners, as have countless non-western societies across the globe since the dawn of time. So you might as well also ask, why don’t more people “hook up” more often? It’s the tension between these two different ways of thinking that inspired me to write the play.
Q: This play is funny and unpredictable, but also bold and daring. It crosses a lot of boundaries. Is this something that you like to do and have done before?
IM: Thank you for the kind words. While I’d love to say that the play is some kind of deeply provocative piece of writing, I actually think it’s a rather quiet/chaste treatment of a subject that is really not that taboo anymore. There’s no incest, goat-sex, or on-stage orgies in a youth hostel (I know, I’m disappointed, too). If the play pushes any boundaries, I’d like to think it’s in its refusal to cast blame on any one particular character, or to prescribe a specific lifestyle.
The Sexual Life of Savagesruns Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm through August 16, 2014 at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets are $30 - $34. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com