The Mystery of Love & Sex Review – Brilliantly Written and Performed

Curious about the title “The Mystery of Love & Sex”, written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Marti Lyons, my companion and I went to see it at The Gillian Theatre, Glencoe, where it is playing through July 2, 2017. We found the play to be deep, intricate, prescient, moving and compelling.  And it was very funny.


Hayley Burgess and Travis Turner

The intimate Gillian Theatre, (at Writers Theatre) where this play was performed seemed to be an upgraded version of the original theater behind the bookstore where plays were offered by Writers Theatre  for many years.  The intimacy and simplicity of the former space are maintained while site lines and sound are improved. This is the only third time this space has been used.  It was the perfect setting.


As the play opens we meet a young couple in college, Charlotte (Hayley Burgess), who is white and Jonny (Travis Turner) who is black as they are preparing to entertain Charlotte’s parents.  When Charlotte’s parents Lucinda (Lia Mortensen) and Howard (Keith Kupferer) arrive, tension revolves around whether the young couple will marry.  Is this about a racially mixed relationship?


As the story continues through many twists and turns, so much more is revealed seamlessly explored, including: racism, religion, age, sexuality, parent/child, relationship, and marriage among others.


Travis Turner and Keith Kupferer

Each of the actors, including Jerry Miller as Howard’s father, was convincing and emotionally honest.  The result was a performance that was deep, and powerful.  The language and timing sizzled.


1-Lia Mortensen, Hayley Burgess, Keith Kupferer and Travis Tuner


The stage with only one permanent prop, a wonderful tree to anchor it. The set was both minimalist and complelte with scene changes handled smoothly, thanks to Andrew Boyce (Scenic Designer). Costumes strengthened the story thanks to Samantha C. Jones (Costume Designer).  Lighting and sound enhanced the story thanks to Paul Toben (Lighting Designer), Andrew Hansen (Sound Designer). Other contributions were from Rebecca Adelsheim (Dramaturg), Tyrone Phillips (Assistant Director) and Rebecca Pechter (Stage Manager).


This is a play in which the characters grow and in which the audience is easily invested. Leaving the theatre, there is so much to think about and discuss.  This is highly recommended.


Hayley Burgess and Travis Turner

It is interesting to note the following: The Mystery of Love and Sex premiered in New York City at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at the Lincoln Center in February of 2015, under the direction of Sam Gold. The production starred Academy Award nominee Diane Lane and Tony Award nominee Tony Shalhoub as Lucille and Howard.


This marks Marti Lyons’ directorial debut for Writers Theatre where she previously assistant directed Days Like Today and The Letters. This season alone, Marti has directed at Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, The Hypocrites and the Gift. She will direct at Victory Gardens later this season.


Lia Mortensen and Hayley Burgess


Playwright Bathsheba Doran was nominated for a 2012 Writers Guild Award for her work on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. She also wrote episodes for the second season of NBC’s Smash and Showtime’s Masters of Sex for which she was also co-producer. Bash is currently developing the limited series Codes of Conduct with Steve McQueen for HBO as well as a series for Channel 4 called Jerusalem. She is also under commission from Lincoln Center Theater, Atlantic Theater and Playwrights Horizons in New York City.


Travis Turner and Hayley Burgess

Prices: Prices for all performances range from $35 - $80

Purchase early for best prices

Box Office: The Box Office is located at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; 847-242-6000

or for more information, go to the writerstheatre website


Advisory: This performance contains: full frontal nudity, sexual situations, adult language, smoking and depiction of drug use.


All photos by Michael Brosilow

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