In The Mystery of Love & Sex, currently playing Signature Theatre, it’s quickly established that long-time friends Charlotte and Jonny share a love that’s deep and special, but is it “love” love or is it more of the kind of connection that comes from having been friends for half of their lives?
That’s the big mystery that the play deals with as the college friends try to figure out if they really are in romantic love, if they should move in together, get married or just stay close friends. The fact that both also wrestle with their sexuality, wondering if they are gay or bisexual only adds to the life-deciding confusion.
It was playwright Bathsheba Doran’s unique and compelling script that made Shayna Blass so interested in becoming Charlotte.
“I had read a little about the play and then I watched the marketing video they were doing at Lincoln Center (where the show was staged last year) and the character just spoke to me,” Blass says. “She’s such a complicated young woman. We are the same age, and she is questioning a lot about herself and trying to find the balance between growing up and how your relationship changes with your parents and your best friends. I knew I wanted this part.”
Blass was performing in Signature’s Cabaret when auditions were being held, so she was easily able to try out. She impressed director Stella Powell-Jones so much, that she was cast in the role.
“A lot drew me into her journey and this character,” Blass says. “Charlotte is from the South, but I am from D.C., so definitely a northerner, but I could relate to her really wanting to be true to herself. When you have tough questions about yourself and your friends and see relationships change, you can have some self doubt—even when things are going really well. I think that makes Charlotte question herself and wonder where she fits in.”
Playing opposite Blass is Xavier Scott Evans as Jonny, and even though they didn’t meet for the first time until the first day of rehearsal, they had an immediate connection.
“I just gave him this big hug and we’ve loved each other from the very first second. As soon as we met, we knew we would be best buds,” Blass says. “We’re both Aries and have very similar energies, and, as serious as this play can get, he is a great light to have in the room and a great mixture of joy and play and work.”
Since Evans is from New York, Blass took it upon herself to show him around D.C., and introduce him to some of her favorite coffee shops and hangouts.
“During the first two weeks of rehearsals, we were constantly running lines and getting breakfast together and getting to know each other,” she says. “A lot of times, we weren’t even talking about the show but talking about our lives and experiences. I told him, ‘Feel free to ask me anything about me and my life.’ I’m not a private person in my friendships, and we spent lots of time talking about family and past relationships, and it’s always nice to get the male perspective on things in life. I’m super lucky to have him as a scene partner.”
Although the play deals with some very serious topics, Blass notes it’s still pretty funny, and has lots of thought invoking scenes.
“It’s this tragic story of your sexuality and trying to be ‘normal.’ Being a young woman from the South, there are lots of expectations of how you should be and who you should love,” she says. “I’m really excited for the young LGBT crowd to come see the show because I think this is their story of friendship.”
Not that everyone won’t enjoy it. In fact, even for the non-LGBT audience, Blass feels the story is deep down a heartwarming story about family.
“No matter what happens and how your world is turned upside down, there’s an invisible nest of love and we need to learn how that love can be stretched over time and overcome boundaries and let bygones be bygones,” she says. “How do you do that? That’s the mystery of the play.”