nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
January 24, 2011
"I get so bored of talking," proclaims Lexi, a hot young 20-something looking at the glory of the Grand Canyon. That Lexi has just inundated her traveling companions and the audience with a lengthy monologue of whatever thoughts happen to be passing through her brain certainly doesn't bother her; for Lexi, what's important is what's immediate, and vice versa.
The topic of just what's important to the new generation of young adults is very much on Trista Baldwin's mind in her play American Sexy, a piece that explores and explodes concepts of sexual availability and desire. The four characters in American Sexy talk a lot—a LOT—about sex. Frenemies Lexi and Jessica spend nearly as much time pretending they're going to make out as they do breathing, much to the obvious excitement of Darren, who is dating Jessica (despite the fact that she's making him wait to have sex), and Andy, the slightly older fellow who is driving them all to Vegas. But is Lexi as slutty as she seems? Is Jessica really a "good girl"—and what exactly makes a girl "good," anyway? Do the men have brains as well as balls? When they decide to camp overnight near the Canyon instead of driving on, more than just who will sleep in which tent is on everyone's mind.
American Sexy takes not much over an hour to say its piece, but not a moment feels rushed or skipped over. If Baldwin hasn't found an effective way to conclude the play, everything before that ending flows naturally. Her dialogue is sharp and clear and specific, and her characters are etched beautifully. More to the point, though, Baldwin explores their insights with great respect for their fundamental humanity—it's easy to roll your eyes at these people, she seems to be saying, but look underneath. They want what you want.
The production at the Flea helps Baldwin's cause a great deal, as well. All four actors are engaging and fun to watch. Satomi Blair makes a completely (and appropriately) unapologetic Lexi, a woman who knows just how short her shorts need to be. Scott Morse is terrific and funny as Andy, a man who's only a few years older than the other three but who is a world apart because of it. Ron Washington is a low-key Darren, and only fumbles when he needs to convey a deep sense of shock and betrayal. And Nicky Schmidlein's Jessica, a girl who is trying desperately to claim her own decency, is particularly captivating. All four are directed deftly by Mia Walker, whose staging feels light as gossamer—all the better to let the play do its work. The design team (sets by Kate Sinclair Foster, lighting by Joe Chapman, costumes by Katie Hartsoe) does great work, with sound designer Colin Whitley providing a particularly impressive aural world. All in all, this play with something on its mind is very much worth exploring.