nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
August 16, 2009
If you're a mild-mannered gentleman of the world, what would you give your uptight wife for her birthday, ten years into a fading marriage? How about a larger-than-life evening with a porn star, while you hang out in the living room? That's the premise of the unique situational comedy Mr. Sensitivity, a gleeful profanity-laced romp from Jollity Farm Productions at this year's FringeNYC. Mr. Sensitivity is not for the faint-of-heart when it comes to blue language, but it sure is laugh-out-loud funny for those who enjoy an occasional trip to Crass Mountain. Byron Nilsson's Penthouse Letters-meets-Noises Off script is definitely not for all tastes, but if you're in the mood for some graphic dialogue with an inner sweetness at its core (or a fan of any Kevin Smith movies), then Mr. Sensitivity will certainly fill that niche for you.
Director David Baecker has assembled a courageous cast, particularly in the lead role of stud-for-hire Barry Woodman (a very funny Jefferson Slinkard), who gets to deliver some of the rawest dialogue imaginable. His polar opposite is meek husband Grady (David Sedgwick), who met Barry at the gym, found out he was a porn star and has offered him three hundred bucks to be a gift to his wife Tiffany (a deliciously icy Caroline Lawton). Rounding out the cast is Barry's earnest fiancee Kim (terrifically done by Kate Hettesheimer), who is patiently waiting for Barry to finish both the evening of sex-for-hire and the porn business in general.
Nilsson's script could have very easily fallen flat very quickly, but he adds a lot of nice touches to flesh out (pun intended!) all four characters to keep them from going two-dimensional. Barry's forays into the worlds of both poetry and psychoanalysis (!) are flat-out hilarious, and also somewhat touching, which is a tribute to both the director (Baecker) and the actor (Slinkard). Despite the day job, it is darkly comic to see any character try to break out of the standard mold of what we expect them to be—and Nilsson milks every ounce of comedy out of that juxtaposition. He also peppers the proceedings with one-liners galore (almost all of them profane out of Barry's mouth) and keeps the audience laughing so much that it eliminates any offensiveness.
Even more impressive is the dialogue in the second act between Tiffany and Kim. Nilsson has captured the women's perspective on sex and relationships in a way that few male writers can get a hold of. It is even more surprising when one considers the sexually-charged words of the first act. Nilsson has given Kim some particularly juicy stretches of speech that the disarming Hettesheimer knocks out of the park. But ultimately, this is Barry Woodman's show, and Slinkard absolutely kills it. He's roguish, vulgar, charming, deceitful, surprisingly intelligent—he's everything you'd want a hetero porn star to be. And much like the show itself, subtle he ain't.
But Mr. Sensitivity is a raunchy comedy, and one that works extraordinarily well to boot. But bring a Q-tip to clean out your ears afterwards, just in case.