It's Just Sex
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
June 18, 2013
Elaine Hendrix, Salvator Xuereb, Michael Colby Jones, Jackie Debatin, Gina LaPiana, and Matt Walton in a scene from It's Just Sex | Carol Rosegg
Boy, is it hard to talk about some things... The three couples in this show take the opportunity to get very drunk at one of their usual dinner parties and explore all topics relating to sex, love, liberty, and relationships. Sound fun? It's uncomfortable in a good way. Why not see it with someone who loves you?
Phil (Matt Walton) is a married man who has just been caught with a hooker (Molly Fahey) in his living room. His wife, Joan (Jackie Debatin) is too busy to get angry; they have guests coming over. Though Phil accuses Joan of sweeping her problems under the carpet--and indeed, the guests are all trying to find an excuse not to come over--the party happens as planned. Everyone's children are away at camp, so it's a night of freedom.
Carl (Salvator Xuereb) is unashamed of his sex drive, and his wife Kelly (Gina LaPiana) trusts him mainly because they are intimate "at least once a day". The onlysurprise for Carl is that Kelly is attracted to Phil. Greg (Michael Colby Jones) loves Lisa (Elaine Hendrix) but, argumentatively, she brings her skills as a lawyer to bear on their marriage. Greg is a little frustrated about everything.
The three couples chat about the difference between men and women. Why do men want to have sex with every woman in the world? How would women feel if they were legally allowed only to talk to their husbands? (I'm still laughing over that question of questions.)
The friends wrack their brains for a game they can play, go through a few turns of truth or dare, and then Joan's suppressed anger at Phil brings her to suggest spouse-swapping. They're all adults, and it's just sex, right? Joan drags Greg off to the master bedroom, and in the ensuing silence Carl sneaks away with Lisa and Kelly finally gets her chance to be with Phil.
After all six friends are back in the living room, they find it harder to be friends. The play is only just building to a climax (sorry for the pun). Everything the couples had kept within is up for discussion. Greg finds the courage to speak to Lisa. For their part, Carl and Kelly have grown closer. However, Kelly blows off steam by lapsing into long strings of cursing in Spanish. This, and her willingness to satisfy Carl, is explained in the play "because Puerto Ricans are like that". Fortunately, Carl's stereotypes about red-dress-wearing Latinas are contradicted by how Kelly treats her husband and Phil. Phil, it turns out, has engineered a lot of the night's conflicts, and is happy to have a real conversation with Joan. It's charmingly complicated, and worth experiencing in person.
I'm sure every married couple has something they prefer not to talk about, and these characters are blessed with an exaggerated number of taboos. There is a lot of conflict in this play, most of it funny if only because it is happening to someone else. The writing is good, resisting the temptation to resort to cliches. Director Rick Shaw keeps the pace and the comic timing quite perfect, and the cast, all of whom are (as described) quite attractive, are capable of eliciting sympathy one moment and hatred the next. Molly Maginnis's slick costumes suggest fashionable professionals just hitting middle age but quite aware of their own needs. Joah Iacovelli's set and lighting design is quite modern and sexy.