by Ronnie Ruff
I grew up in the late fifties when housewives all looked like June Cleaver, or at least the ones on TV did. No one talked about sex and at the age of eight I received a slap across the lips when I mentioned to my dad that a childhood friend had described a popular movie of the time as a “big whorehouse” and that he should take me to see it. I had no idea what that term meant but my father reminded me in no uncertain terms that was no language to use in front of my mother. That macho protection of women was part of an overall ignorance of what women felt about all the things that made up their lives. Today women speak out about what makes them happy and angry, thereby knocking down the walls that both confined and protected them. There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that women are far better off free of those so called protections.
The Sex Habits Of American Women by Julie Marie Myatt (currently mounted at Signature Theatre) explores some of the moral issues of the glorious fifties while providing a few laughs, some things to ponder and some pretty cool stage design along the way.
For one to break down Sex Lives to a simple concept is almost impossible because there are so many themes being explored in the play. Is the play a comedy or a tragedy? Is it making a statement about the sexual mores of the fifties? Themes like the desire for love, forbearance, achievement in life, and the damage overly self consumed men can do to the family all come to mind.
The Sex Habits of American Women is set in the fifties and the present day by using over a dozen monitors hidden behind screens in a huge decorative wall unit among other places to project the scenes set in 2004. The concept, of portraying the fifties live and in “living color” while using monochrome for those in 2004 is one of the most interesting used in the production.