It’s a shame for Brad Fraser that the title Sexual Perversity in Chicago was already taken when he wrote this 1989 play about the romantic and sexual turmoils of a group of young libertines (originally set in Fraser's native Canada but revised for its 1991 U.S. premiere here). Spiritually, Fraser’s play has more in common with David Mamet’s 1974 play than the bowdlerized date movie made of it in 1986, but with added wrinkles of gay and lesbian themes of the day, and the background plot of a serial killer stalking the city.
But despite a talented, committed (and let’s just say it, attractive) cast in Cor Theatre’s revival, what may have felt daring and sexy in the ’90s now comes across as dated, stilted and sad. The characters here, including a gay former child actor turned jaded waiter who cruises Montrose Harbor for anonymous sex and his roommate, a straight woman with body-image issues who has a one-night stand with a lesbian who turns stalker, are almost uniformly awful people being awful to one another for two hours.
The additional layer of the serial killer (it’s obviously one of the characters and obvious which one it is), along with, perhaps, the waiter’s seduction of his teenage busboy, or the psychic dominatrix narrator, take the proceedings over the top from melodrama into prurient absurdity. The play’s views on sexual and emotional violence feel shallow; the sexual perversity is empty titillation.
Cor Theatre. By Brad Fraser. Directed by Ernie Nolan. With Kate Black-Spence, Tosha Fowler, Andrew Goetten, Sam Guinan-Nyhart, Lauren Sivak, Eric Staves, Ethan Warren. Running time: 2hrs 10mins; one intermission.