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Merry Me

  • Theater, Comedy
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Cindy Cheung, Marinda Anderson, Nicole Villamil, Esco Jouléy and Shaunette Renée Wilson in MERRY ME at New York Theatre Workshop
Photograph: Courtesy Joan MarcusMerry Me

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Regina Robbins 

Hansol Jung’s Merry Me is a ribald comic paean to lust. The pointedly named Shane Horne (Esco Jouléy) is a Navy lieutenant who delights in providing pleasure to any and every woman on base, including her commanding officer’s wife; but while Shane gives other women their “merries,” she’s unable to find her own. Aided and abetted by her therapist and former lover, Dr. Jess O’Nope (Marinda Anderson), she embarks on a quest for her elusive big O. The laughs, at least, come nearly non-stop, with help from madcap performances, silly props and loads upon loads of sex.

Merry Me’s structure is both deliberately formulaic—repurposing the 17th-century framework of Restoration Comedy as a celebration of queer sexual liberation—and gleefully anarchic: ignoring the fourth wall, blurring the lines between the actors and the characters they play, and cramming in more literary and pop-cultural references than you can shake a vibrator at. Our narrator and guide is an Angel (Shaunette Renée Wilson), relocated from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America plays, who has eight vaginas, plus…other equipment. Shane’s journey even makes a stop in classical Greece when she encounters the dewy young Sapph (Nicole Villamil), who is newly married to Pvt. Willy Memnon (Ryan Spahn), the hapless son of the army’s top general. 

Despite all these blasts from the past—the works of Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf also make appearances—Merry Me lives very much in the present, and marks a stark departure from much of Jung’s previous work, which has focused on characters immobilized by trauma. Director Leigh Silverman, a frequent collaborator, fully embraces Jung’s ode to sexual ecstasy, as does the cast, capering to and fro on Rachel Hauck’s candy-colored set. Because the sexuality on display is primarily queer, the play has an inherently political element, but we’re not here to get our consciousness raised; we’re here to bear witness to women unashamed of their desires and determined to satisfy them—and maybe to see some white men get vaporized like in Avengers: Infinity War. Merry, indeed! The great work begins.

Merry Me. New York Theatre Workshop (Off Broadway). By Hansol Jung. Directed by Leigh Silverman. With Marinda Anderson, Cindy Cheung, Esco Jouléy, David Ryan Smith, Ryan Spahn, Nicole Villamil, Shaunette Renée Wilson. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. 

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Merry Me | Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus

Written by
Regina Robbins


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