Assuming love and sex are an intertwined riddle to be solved and you want an answer to the mystery —you’re not going to get it here. If you want to walk away deep in thought, contemplating the unavoidable complexities of male/female friendships and sexuality, you’re probably not going to do that either. While The Mystery of Love & Sex offers a lot of funny dialogue, characters with quirks, and food for thought, it’s likely you’ll find that it’s done a disservice to the depth of the love and sex exposé.
College student Charlotte (Amandine Thomas) loves her childhood best friend Johnny (Quincy Vicks), and Johnny loves Charlotte. Or do they? Don’t they? Or do they with conditions? The conditions being their own latent sexualities, contrasting skin colors, divergent religions, general social status, and definitions of family. If you feel overwhelmed, you should. Add to that a suicide attempt and an arc of conflict between Johnny and Charlotte’s dad, Howard (Jonas David Grey), a mystery-novel writer with a lot of suppressed –isms, tinge of misanthropy, and a free spirited wife, Lucinda (Marianne Angelella) that can barely tolerate his bullshit anymore. My head wants to explode, and I can’t focus.
The Mystery of Love & Sex tries to tackle too much head on. Any one of the conditions above could be the focus of the play with plenty of subtext brought in by the others, but this play wants to say something, directly, about everything and then tie it up too neatly at the end with a group hug between Charlotte, Johnny, Howard, and Lucinda and a declaration of familial love.
What does work are the actors, who convincingly bring out a playful dynamic between the quartet that, at most turns, nicely truncates serious topics into funny interludes befitting families that, ultimately, truly love one another, despite any differences or pre-conceived notions over what is right or wrong. Moral or immoral. Normal or not normal.
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Thomas and Angelella are spot-on free spirits, each clearly shaped by the cultural zeitgeists that reigned over their youth. Grey plays Howard with the perfect amount of blissful ignorance surrounding his own hang-ups, often to cringe-worthy and laughable affect. And Vicks is superbly likable as Johnny, even in Johnny’s lowest moments. He is a character you root for and Vicks an actor you just want to see more of. Actually, they all are, and they do well with the material, which is honest, if not life changing, and droll when it needs to be.
“You two are really the only two people I can tolerate,” Howard tells his wife and daughter while Johnny jets off to buy butter and as he casually struggles to eat sitting on the floor, Japanese-style, much to his chagrin.
The Mystery of Love & Sex
closes February 3, 2019
Details and tickets
There is a lot to like about this family and their conversations, a testament to the strong writing of Bathsheba Doran. But the material needs to be pared down and/or delivered with a quicker pace—the fun dialogue, which would sharpen with more snap, nearly demands that. Act I could have been the whole show, and packed a wallop that, instead, lessens as Act II drones on (the show clocked in at 2h 50mins), multiple times tricking me into thinking this was the end. A single false ending—okay. More than that, and I begin to get antsy and annoyed, especially when it is offering character transformations not fully earned or merited.
One fight, deep into Act II, with Johnny over his casual –isms and Howard is suddenly a new man, embracing Johnny as the son he never had? Hmmm. Act II does come full circle in resolving several “mysteries” slyly presented in Act I, but the time between them and the weight of each pulling against the other lessens the surprise in the reveal(s). The drama is diluted when it is needed most.
This is a good show. Funny, nay charming, in some ways and incredibly likable on many levels. with the characters and actors leading the charge. But it did not offer the profound insight, or deep dive look I thought it would. It, more or less, lightly basted many topics with good humor. Worth a night, and three hours, if you have it.
The Mystery of Love and Sex . Written by Bathsheba Doran. Directed by Natka Bianchini. Featuring Marianne Angelella, Jonas David Grey, Amandine Thomas, and Quincy Vicks. Production: Danielle Harrow, Costume Design; Megan Suder, Set Design; Brandi Martin, Lighting Design; Chelsea Pace, Intimacy Consultant; Devyn Deguzman; James Bunzi, Fight Choreography; and Katie O’Donnell, Assistant Stage Manager. Stage Managed by Ellen Mitchell. Produced by Iron Crow Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.