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?