nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
August 12, 2006
What must it be like to have married your high school sweetheart, have two children, then go through a nasty divorce, and end up back on the dating scene more than 20 years later with no dating experience? There must be a lot of people who can relate to the situation, and that's what Fornicationally Challenged, a one-person show written and performed by Judi Lee Brandwein, is all about.
On a bare stage with one black stool for a set, Brandwein takes us through a series of post-divorce dates with varying results and quandaries. She introduces us to her ex-husband (whom she refers to lovingly as "the ex hole") and shares her anger at the reality of having been there through his sexual peak (for most males, that means teens and twenties) while he has left her high and dry for hers (for most females, forties and beyond). The show follows Judi to singles events, and on dates where she is forced to confront exactly how much has changed on the social scene in the more that two decades since she last dated. Although some things have gotten more open, others are more constricting. Sexually transmitted diseases now can be life-threatening, and to her shock she finds that a lot of men over 30 want commitment, and not just fun: "35 year old men are the new women."
Brandwein's writing can be very funny and some of the best material is the banter between Judi and Roxanne, her sage, 40something, cigarette-puffing, and single friend. When Judi has to buy condoms for the first time, and she looks for a chart on the box that specifies correct size according to height and weight, Roxanne spouts "You're not buying pantyhose! Do you honestly think that a man is going to put something on that you have taken out of a box marked small?"
Although her acting is sometimes a little stiff in her transitions into different characters, Brandwein amusingly portrays a cornucopia of male and female characters, giving them each an individual quirky charm. The show is upbeat, and at the end of her adventures, although she has not found her perfect partner, she is determined that he is out there somewhere.
Mark Travis, who also helped develop the piece, nicely stages the show using all of the performance space available (including the side stairs in the audience) in a well-balanced way, and keeps the energy up and moving. Lighting and sound are so important to a one-person show, and Cynthia Jankowski's creatively supports the action.