Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex & Sex Offers Interruptus More Than Completion

With the word "sex" six times in the title, you'd think there'd be a little more horseplay and a little less foreplay in this production. But aside from a couple of bare male butts and a screened view of Susan Kouvala's semi-lit nude body, there's almost nothing worthy of the title.

What you get is fourteen hard-working actors portraying six couples in varying stages of relationships, plus a couple of guys looking to score. The play starts out with the unconventional sight of a guy cleaning up after a party, but quickly veers back to more mainstream characterizations: infidelity, non-communication, the aftermath of rape, lying, divorce, and manipulative sex. While it takes place in a single set, the play actually consists of half a dozen unconnected stories. Even when actors from the different stories are, occasionally, on stage at the same time, they don't interact. The stories are so separate, in fact, that the single set portrays six different locations, without even the invention or contrivance (depending upon your point of view) of six stories taking place in the same apartment.

A threesome celebrates their new relationship en route to a Hollywood ending

And the stories are laid out with a deliberate, perfunctory approach that seems to say: "Here's how this couple relates. Here's how this couple relates. Here's how this couple relates." There's hardly any character development, and only sparse action. Revelations are few and far between. Only a handful of the lines sing or zing. Surprises are even harder to come by. And as for sex, there's precious little of it even by inference or reference. The one couple that actually has coupled within the confines of the play (albeit offstage) did so in a kind of hedonistic threesome that actually disdains affection. And the only couple that we see in bed gets interrupted by discussions, differing agendas, and -- finally -- the demands of doing business.

The cast is extremely talented and downright lovely, with especially wonderful moments rendered by Valerie Dillman and Noah Harpster, Jack Maxwell, and Robert Patrick Brink. The set, lighting, and set decoration are thoroughly professional. The directing, by Asaad Kelada, reflects his extreme success in TV, with actors too often allowed to skate through their roles and deliver relatively standard readings expressing fairly glib emotions. Overall, the whole production plays like a TV show, except that you're in the studio for the taping and no one calls "cut".

A threesome celebrates their new relationship en route to a Hollywood ending

Of some interest is Noah Harpster's rendering of "Buck," a jock who transcends the stereotype with his genuinely touching sensitivity. Perhaps the most prurient aspect of sex in this decidely un-sexy play is that five heterosexual couples are so inept at both love and sex. The only couple that actually appears to love each other and have the best shot at achieving a committed, loving, and by implication sexual relationship is a pair of gay men, and their love is marred by one partner's reluctance to come out to his family and co-workers.

While the stories are carefully crafted and professionally presented, one leaves the theatre wishing that playwright Furth had included a look at couples who can do love -- or at least sex -- better than this, and had given us a more hopeful exploration of what it means to be human, sexual, and in search of a sustaining relationship. Instead, we exit with a heightened sense of disconnectedness, aching for some of the closeness, joy, and pleasure that so thoroughly elude the characters who inhabit this stage.

Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex & Sex
Author: George Furth
Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90046
Box Office: 323 - 960-1056
Thursday, June 2 Sunday, July 17, 2005
Thursday, Friday, Saturday @ 8pm
Sunday @ 3pm
Tickets: $36.50

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