Theater review: Soloist Sarah Jones maps the future of sex in Sell/Buy/Date

Written by
David Cote
Photograph: Joan Marcus

Future-casting tends to focus on things like travel (flying cars!) politics (dystopia?) and discovery (aliens!), but let’s not forget sex. From the orgasmatron in Woody Allen’s Sleeper to the gender anarchy of Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, sci-fi creators (and consumers) have wondered about where making love is headed. Now solo chameleon Sarah Jones weighs in with a gallery of high-definition characters who collectively paint a brave new world in which gender and orientation are totally fluid, while prostitution has gone through revolutionary social changes.

Framed as a class in the early 22nd century, Jones’s baseline character is the brisk English academic Serene, who takes her students through a virtual tour of the history of commercial sex. Serene accesses testimonies recorded on BERT—bio-empathetic resonant technology—a neat device that allows Jones to slip in and out of highly specific types across age, ethnicity and gender lines.

Anyone who saw the performer's equally jaw-dropping 2006 turn, Bridge & Tunnel, will know her ability to vocally and physically transform into, say, an octogenarian Jewish granny, or, later, a Native American male stand-up comic. Here, she does not disappoint, blending virtuosic mimicry with a sly feminist message that if erotic power relations do not evolve, it could be the death of us. Directed with maximum style and clarity by Carolyn Cantor, Sell/Buy/Date shows the protean Jones staging a one-woman orgy of provocative ideas.

Manhattan Theatre Club (Off Broadway). Written and performed by Sarah Jones. Directed by Carolyn Cantor. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through Nov 13. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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