nytheatre.com review by Danny Bowes
August 17, 2010
Heterosexuals is a slightly misleading and gnomic title for blogger/playwright Lee Papa's new show, now performing at The Cherry Pit. It implies a specificity and narrowness of scope, that the play is somehow limited in subject to those boring old-fashioned (but not, as some theatergoers might at times think, apocryphal) male-female types. The character names indicate otherwise: the married couple are named only "He" and "She" and the wife's friend with whom the husband cheats is simply named the "Other." Here we have universality, and here Heterosexuals begins to reveal itself as, over the course of its concise hour and twenty minutes, a bold, brutally honest look at monogamy, infidelity, and the desperation of being single.
Also contra-indicating the title is the fact that the opening scene is a man (He) and a woman (Other) on a date talking about which members of the same sex they'd have sex with. This leads, inevitably, to them discussing fantasies, masturbation, and eventually sex with each other. The fact that the man is married is itself part of the motivation for his wanting to sleep with another woman; he feels the passion and spontaneity of sex with his wife is gone.
As luck would have it, his wife and the other woman are friends and have a lunch date the next day. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that everything goes to hell. The resolution of Heterosexuals is a bit abrupt and open-ended, but not in a dramatically unsatisfying way; it ends the way it does, with no melodrama and a complete absence of sentimentality, because that's the way this story would end in real life.
Papa's script frequently seems to meander, especially in the middle, during the lunch date scene, where the other woman (Elizabeth McNelis) goes on at extreme length about her sex life while the wife (Anne Teutschel) silently eats almost an entire salad. It isn't until quite a way into this scene that it becomes clear where Papa is going; when it does, the scene, which starts out funny and becomes borderline exasperating and pathetic toward the middle, concludes as one of the most impressive acts of passive-aggressive cruelty one is ever going to see onstage. Hats off to both playwright/director and actors.
The whole play follows that structure, more or less. While it's not always clear where Papa is going, it is once he gets there, and the apparent meandering becomes an act of clear design. It's a mark of the script's success that it does not take sides: the cheating husband (Jeff Kreisler) is not an irredeemably selfish cad, the cuckolded wife is neither saint nor shrieking harpy (but holy God does she have a cruel streak), and the other woman is not a calculating femme fatale/black widow type. They are three fully realized people who desperately want passion in their lives
While Heterosexuals may not be for theatregoers squeamish about language (thankfully not a problem for me, just warning sensitive types who can't handle the c-word), it is definitely a show to be seen if you like your comedy with a healthy dose of truth and insight, and if you like your truth and insight presented in an articulate and funny manner.