The Sexual Lives of Savages
The characters in Ian MacAllister-McDonald's The Sexual Lives of Savages find out just how quickly honesty can spiral out of a person's control, especially when sex enters the equation.
The heart of the conflict here is a number. As the play opens, Hal (Joe Bombard) — with fork poised near his mouth, piece of broccoli ready to be eaten — is shocked to learn that his longtime girlfriend has had a far greater number of sexual experiences than he has. He counts seven sexual partners; Jean (Meghan Kreidler) admits to 25, and that number, it turns out, is in a bit of flux, as she doesn't count every sex act in the reckoning.
This revelation puts a burr in Hal's psyche, and drives a wedge between them. That he is a complete jerk in dealing with the ensuing tension doesn't help. Behind his nice-guy facade, there's a cauldron of anger ready to bubble up at a moment's notice — anger that frightens Hal, but that he can't hide anymore. Bombard strings these pieces of Hal together, letting us laugh at times, but also allowing us to experience the turmoil Hal is feeling.
Soon Hal finds himself journeying into a sexual wonderland, led by friends whose sex lives are quite different from his own. His friend and colleague Clark (Nicholas Leeman) turns out to be a swinger, and the honesty he shares with his wife seems to have made for a stable relationship. Clark's lifestyle attracts the interest of Jean's co-worker and friend Naomi (Megan Dowd), who is looking for some fresh excitement outside of her longtime lesbian relationship.
Hal eventually starts dating Alice (Clare Parme), a character who doesn't so much have red flags but is herself one giant red flag, complete with LED warning lights. She is someone who, counter to the prevailing sexual mores, has "saved" herself for the right man. Parme does her best to hide the flaws in her character enough for us to at least believe that the vulnerable Hal would be taken in by her charms.
MacAllister-McDonald's script doesn't exactly bring all of these ideas into focus. With five characters fighting for space, some of them take long stretches of time out of the spotlight. A key one, in fact, disappears for almost the entire second act, even though her path following an emotional breakup would be fascinating to watch. Leeman and Dowd find their secondary characters being pushed to the fore late in the second act, which — again — is a bit of a distraction from the central plot. The two actors do good work, though, especially Leeman, playing someone who is a bit of a cad and absolutely honest about this fact.
Amy Rummenie directs the Walking Shadow Theatre Company cast with a solid hand, bridging the episodes of the script into a cohesive whole. All of the five actors not only find strong personal space, but work together as a company of sexually obsessed characters.
Katharine Horowitz's sound design links the numerous scenes and monologues with music that has the same tone as the surrounding play. And the characters get a terrific assist from Rob Jensen's set design, which is centered on an impressionistic back wall decorated with the logos of various social media sites, showcasing the difference in communication and sharing that we find in the second decade of the 21st century.
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