Illegal Sex Acts: Live on Stage!

With over 130 shows happening at Fringe this year, marketing can be a bit of a problem.  Illegal Sex Acts: Live on Stage asks the question “How do you fill seats while pleasing both the audience and the critics?” Most people’s answer is a thought provoking entertaining show with some good laughs.  What this audience gets instead is a very disjointed and deadpan show that feels thirty minutes longer than it actually is.

The show opens with Ming (Laura J. Scott), a budding writer, trying to convince Sea (Linda Gabriel Deutsch), a skeptical producer, that the show she has written will be perfect for the Fringe Festival in a couple of months.  Sea begins to read through different script exerpts shown in seven very different vignettes. An ensemble cast interchanges multiple roles throughout the show.  In between each and every vignette, Sea expresses to Ming how bad the writing is or how it will never take off on stage.  If she only knew how right she was.

As you watch the seven different scenes, you feel as though you have heard this story or device before maybe from Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” bit or while watching “The Twilight Zone.”  References are fine and enjoyable if they are reinforced with originality and focus. What this script is missing is a fresh perspective on the themes it is trying to convey.

The comedy in the show was lost in actors who seem to remain stationary and deliver lines like they were reading them off the other person’s face with little or no variance in tone.  Comedy takes a great deal of preparation in finding the timing and delivery, and if that work is not put into a rehearsal, then you will face a very stoic audience and the occasional muffled chuckle.

The most likable scenes are the one where the actors find their energy and start playing to the opposite personalities created in the script. In the scene “Big Man” the Big Man (Mathew Ancarrow) finds himself imprisoned as he is interrogated by a very vulgar Little Girl (Erika Jarecki). While it is the only scene that could be rated R in an otherwise very PG show, the actor’s provide the subtlety and dramatic arc that comedy demands in order to be entertaining. In the scene “Rancid Man,” Donna (Erika Jarecki) a struggling actress must decide if she is going to sign movie producer Joe El’s (Jonathan Raymond) contract – the one “you would have to be on drugs” to create.  The scene pokes fun at escalating stakes and what one will do for a little exposure.

Overall the title Illegal Sex Acts: Live on Stage is a marketing ploy but the play has very little substance that leaves the audience feeling a bit sterile.

Illegal Sex Acts: Live on Stage

Written / Directed / Produced by John Sowalsky
Reviewed by Kevin Faragher

Running time:  70 minutes

Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.

Did you see the show?  What did you think?


  1. Snorkleberry says:

    Oh and with regard to the poster art,maybe you should have included a scene entitled”What do you mean? “you lost the key””
    That alone would make people laugh.

  2. Snorkleberry says:

    Hey John, Sorry I had to miss Fringe this year,glad to hear you got in though.I read everyone’s comments just to get a feel for what you accomplished this year.1st AWESOME TITLE and POSTER ART that is SO SeX PIsTaLS I can’t even tell you! On another note and I say this as your friend, a friend with lots of film and Rock & Roll production experience,Roger Corman,Jefferson Starship etc,etc, as stated in your playbill from 2009 and thank you for that too BTW.  But…. “Theatre goer” has a point about perspective.That why jobs like Producer,Director,cameraman,1st AD,2nd AD,Script supervisor,Art Director,etc were created.To get production “moving along”.And i understand all about low/no budget production,believe me Corman is the King of that. What I’m saying is, next year find some students from an area film school and intern them in return for allowing them to put the “Capital Fringe Festival” on their resumes.When you “wear too many hats” you get bogged down in the manusha of the production, another reason for support staff.Which in turn allows YOU to keep the actors focused during rehearsal.Send a blog comment to Ronny Howard(director) he will tell you the same thing.
    One more thing,did I read correctly that you got the same venue as last year? That place was an oven, literally.This summer is set to go on record as one of the hottest ever.
    My condolences to your audience members who had to endure that…especiaily your parents.
    Love Ya Man,Good luck next year.

  3. Wow, I can’t wait to see one of this guy’s plays. Sounds like a hoot! Like Bad Art.

  4. I haven’t seen the play yet, but even if it sucks, you guys are going overboard with this.  I agree that “the truth hurts, but you can’t be afraid of it”, but it just seems like some of the comments are personal attacks.  And besides, failure is one of the best teachers.   Let John learn from his mistakes, but don’t tear him down and trample his spirit.

  5. another theatre goer says:

    My friend and I saw this play last week. We both agreed that it was absolutely terrible. It’s perhaps the worst piece of live theatre I’ve ever paid to see. Just a complete mess. I think at some level the author must know this, there are recurring scenes where the characters put down the quality of the play, and compulsive self-deprecation usually indicates that at some level one knows there’s something wrong.

  6. This forum is also for dialogue, and if you’re going to throw accusations around, you had better be able to back them up. I defy you to identify even one concrete instance in which I *blame* either the Fringe or the press. In fact, I never said what I blame my attendance issues on, but I certainly don’t take it as a measure of some supposed meritocracy.

    You need to read what I’ve actually written. For example, in my playbill, I state that our show in 2009 “…was inexplicably passed over by the reviewers from the DC City Paper, much to my chagrin.” That statement can be paraphrased as: “I don’t know why the City Paper didn’t review us, but it was very disappointing.” That’s a simple statement of fact, not an assignment of blame.

    As to the Fringe, I surmise that you’re referring to a particular comment made in the playbill, under the heading “10 Guidelines for Fringe Production.” Perhaps I should have added “Low-Budget” and “First-Time” to that title. What I wrote there was: “The Fringe is a mother who eats her young.” This is meant as pragmatic advice to Fringe novices who frequently fail to understand the extent and limits of the resources provided by the Fringe. (Just a couple weeks ago I spoke to a first-time producer who was startled to realize that the space assigned had no spotlight.) I then go on to say: “…be grateful that [the Fringe has] given your production life…” I fail to see how that amounts to blaming the Fringe for anything.

    No sale. Try again.

  7. theatre goer says:

    everyone’s entitled to there own opinion – and that’s what these comment sections are for.
    I’m sorry Alison and John if you don’t appreciate that, but that’s life.
    Was my comment a bit too far? maybe – but in your play and in the program you blame others for your show not doing well, and i just wanted to make it clear that if your show doesn’t get an audience, or gets bad reviews, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Don’t blame fringe, don’t blame reviewers for not coming out.
    blame the writer, blame the marketing folks, blame the actors. Know that you didn’t put enough energy and time in to making the show as good as it can be.
    Ofcourse you don’t go in to a project thinking it’s going to suck – but when you’re so close to the work and project – sometimes you just don’t know = and that’s why having some people from outside your group – like a director who’s not connected to the project – come in and figure out what works and what doesn’t work – is the right way to go.
    Finally – i laughed when i saw it too – because some of it was funny – and sometimes i was laughing about how bad it was – not at the intended joke.
    good luck next year.

  8. MacBeth: I think I can safely speak for everyone in our cast when I say that a bad review is a bad review is a bad review. We all get them, and we all learn how to deal with them. What I object to — and what I believe Allison objected to — was not the original review, but the hyperbolic, mean-spirited comments posted by “theatre goer” and several others: I have searched this site in a vain attempt to find any other instance of such vitriolic diatribe, without success. Such comments are neither critiques nor reviews… they’re just cheap shots.

    No one puts up a show thinking that it’s a bad piece. Some shows work, some don’t. Some productions are easier to bring together than others. Last year, this same site gave my show — which was substantially similar to this year’s show — a four-star rating and a rave review. Go figure.

    I would point out that the mantra of the Fringe is “risk-taking.” But if there is no latitude given for the possibility of failure, then the mantra is mere lip-service and the process becomes hypocritical. If our show failed, it was an honest failure, and we certainly do not deserve a drubbing from “critics” who post under the anonymity of online aliases.

  9. I too, was at this weekends performance.  The audience did laugh and enjoy themselves, some of the writing was pretty clever.  However, that does not mean that there are some very serious issues to this production.
    You can tell that there is a lack of direction from some of the actors on that stage… either that or they have ADHD so bad that they can not sit still!  As an actor, you do not have to move on every single word!  That is either bad acting or bad directing… or both, I don’t know.
    Again, those two scenes mentioned above, the actors found energy and brought it and used it in their characters, that is why they were so fascinating to watch.  Now, the heat may have something to do with it, sitting in the audience was pretty painful, so I can only imagine how hard it must be to move around on stage under the lights… but guess what… that is your job!
    Yes it is hot!  But we paid good money to see a show!  PLUS we had to buy a button!  SO BRING ME ENERGY!!!   Play with words was killing me… the writing was clever… but it gets lost because the actors have no energy… same with Gold… Bring me energy and I might enjoy it!  You are actors, do not drop the ball!  In slap stick you do not need to take moments to ponder and think deep thoughts on stage…  pick up the pace and keep it moving!  BUT that does not mean that you have to move on every line, again…
    And as to Ms. Plourd’s comment above, calm down.  This is a review and we have a right to give our opinions.  You should take this as an opportunity to LEARN and GROW as an actress…  Being on stage puts you in the spotlight to be criticized or held praise to…  If you can not handle critique then you are in the wrong business!

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is the second worst show I’ve ever seen, second only to Lord of the Flies at Roundhouse Theatre. However, the reviewer is spot on in singling out Matthew Ancarrow, Erika Jarecki and Jonathan Raymond as the bright spots in this mess. They are solid actors and should not be discouraged by any negative feedback coming in.  

  11. What an honor it is to have won the Hell-In-Hazing Award! Interesting assessments, considering that our audience laughed from beginning to end yesterday. As to the original reviewer, I respectfully disagree. And even more emphatically so with regard to the disingenuous comments made by “theatre goer”: you’ve chosen telling language in which to couch your purportedly constructive criticism. (Suggestion: It reads like a first draft.) However, you can both console yourselves with the certain knowledge that your writing has amused me infinitely more than my writing has amused you. Best regards, and… See you next year!

  12. Allison Plourde says:

    I don’t think your snide comments are even worth reading. I think if you are going to bash a show in that respect you are a sour grape. Sorry you didn’t like the show but do you have to give snide commentary? Really what children!

  13. Erika Jarecki says:

    I am sorry you did not enjoy the show.  Thank you for coming out and taking the time to write the review.

  14. I trust Kevin’s stance. And “anonymous”… we all realize you’re the same person. You could’ve at least made up different fake names. Were you in the show?

  15. I love this review Kevin. I am always a fan of your sarcastic side.

  16. Hmmm…what is the best part about this review?
    1)  The awesome ripping the reviewer does of a well funded, decently cast show that became a piece of doo all because of one person’s ego?
    2)  The four “defending” anonymous comments that all occur within 12 minutes of each other?
    3)  The second piece by piece break down that “theater goer” gives on why this is a horrible, horrible masturbatory exercise that can’t even be enjoyed ironically?
    So hard to tell.  It all almost makes me want to go and watch the whole thing…almost.

  17. theatre goer says:

    The director/playwright writes in his ‘director’s note’ that he’s been having trouble selling his fringe shows over the three years he’s been here. Let me make a few suggestions:
    1) don’t direct something you’ve written – Theatre is a collaborative art form – and the only way you’re going to get the most out of a show, is when you have different points of view. Someone can come in and figure out what about the text doesn’t work.
    2) (and i’m sorry that this just sounds mean) do good theatre. I’ve seen all three shows, and they have just gotten progressively worse. This last one had no sense of plot, arc, or anything worth watching. I agree with the reviewer that the only two scenes that were worth watching were the Baby secene and the director scene – some decent acting happening here. But the rest of the show is drowning in bad writing, and even worse acting. ESPECIALLY the narrators. MY god was that painful to watch – i was actually feeling bad for those ladies that no one gave them any direction to help make them not look like fools up there.
    3) if you have to give your show a crazy title to attract audiences – and then admit the show has virtually nothing to do with the title, you better be doing a damn good show.
    4) as with anything in life – the ending, or the last thing you see – is generally what sticks out in your mind when you leave – and sticking some random song – sung but someone who can’t really sing, but instead ‘scream sings’ – is not the way to get your audiences to attract others to suffer through this 70 min (feels like 2 hours) long show.
    I thought maybe i was being overcritical about this piece – but i spoke with several other audience members i hadn’t ever met before after the show – and we all shared the same feelings i’ve listed about.
    So please – don’t blame fringe – or whine about other shows doing better because they have existing audience bases. If people aren’t coming, it’s because you’re show isn’t good. simple as that.

  18. One of the worst shows I have seen in any Fringe Festival.  “A possible comedy” yes, but this show is not it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hey reviewer ever read Waiting for Godot?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Let me let you in on a little secret! “It is original!” Does this reviewer know the concept?

  21. Anonymous says:

    This reviewer really needs a lesson in old school comedy.

  22. Anonymous says:

    You wouldn’t know old school comedy if it, “knocked your damn brains out!”



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