An entertaining sex farce only goes skin deep.
In Peter Ackerman’s 1999 sex farce, a wayward bit of dirty talk leads, eventually, to real talk for three interconnected couples. But the real talk, once it comes, ties up a little too neatly even for farce.
Opening on Ben (Peter Meadows) and Nancy (Emily Tate) in the throes of passion, we hear Nancy use a seemingly out-of-nowhere Jewish slur mid-orgasm. Ben half catches it but Nancy didn’t even hear herself saying it, and his tentative attempts to broach what just happened turn into an all-out, accusatory fight in which Nancy defensively decides that the real problem is Ben’s actually gay.
Nancy runs off to see her best friend Grace (Patrese McClain), who’s in the midst of her own troubled tryst with Gene (Shane Kenyone), the mob hitman brother of her therapist Mark (Chris Sheard), who himself has a predilection for older men (“the older the better”); Mark is currently in bed with a gentleman he respectfully addresses as Mr. Abramson (Robert Spencer). As Nancy vents her troubles, Grace decides the thing to do is call Mark for advice; eventually they get Ben on the line as well, for a three-way, three-bedroom game of sexual-politics telephone.
William Brown’s production features a charismatic cast and is slickly paced, apart from the momentum-slowing intermission that seems to be inserted solely for the benefit of Windy City Playhouse’s bar sales (the play is normally done in one 90-minute act). It’s especially nice to see Kenyon put a comic spin on the thuggish type in which he’s often cast.
But his Woody Allenesque character also illustrates the odd limitations of Ackerman’s script, which wants to be wackily provocative enough to introduce a sensitive hitman with an intellectual side, but doesn’t really want to explore him. Ackerman bounces his characters off each other entertainingly enough, but they’re more collections of surface tics than plausible human beings.
Windy City Playhouse. By Peter Ackerman. Directed by William Brown. With Emily Tate, Peter Meadows, Patrese McClain, Shane Kenyon, Chris Sheard, Robert Spencer. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.