Aired on KSDS-FM on 12/16/16
RUN DATES: 11/25/16 – 12/24/16
VENUE: Diversionary Theatre
Racism, sexism and homophobia – the merry triumvirate that seems to be on so many lips these days — feature prominently in “The Mystery of Love and Sex.”
The dramatic comedy, named by the New York Times as one of the Top Ten shows of 2015, is making its San Diego debut at Diversionary Theatre – in a delightfully well-acted and well-directed production.
When we meet them, Charlotte and Jonny are living the Spartan college life. They’ve invited her parents for dinner, with no table or chairs, and nothing but bread and salad to eat. They call each other ‘Dear’ and ‘Angel,’ and insist that they love each other, but they’re just best friends.
By the time we leave the four of them, on a wedding night five years later, terrible things have been said, relationships have been destroyed, and painful truths have been revealed.
Bathsheba Doran’s creation crackles with wit, compassion and sharp insights. The first act seems to go on for a long time, with several false endings. But Diversionary executive artistic director Matt Morrow keeps the action so well-paced, we remain riveted.
The final Kumbaya moments seem a tad forced and overly neat, in a play that repeatedly takes unexpected turns. The reconciliations feel rushed, given the recriminations.
But the cast is outstanding, representing the panoply of strained relationships – white and black, Jew and Baptist, gay and straight, self-contained and free-spirited.
Rachael van Wormer takes the biggest social-sexual-emotional journey, and her antic, anxious characterization of Charlotte is superb. John W. Wells III is excellent as the more opaque, restrained and confused Jonny. Mike Sears is terrific as Howard, the manipulative, condescending, detective fiction writer; and Marci Anne Wuebben is a no-holds-barred charmer as his drawling Southern wife.
The design elements wonderfully underscore the imaginative nature of the piece, though some of the musical interludes are a little on-the-nose.
Still, the play’s unpredictability is thrilling, in a roller coaster kind of way. It’s one helluva ride.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews