The Mystery of Love and Sex
The Mystery of Love and Sex New Conservatory Theatre Center
The mysteries that abound in the regional premiere of Bathsheba Doran’s The Mystery of Love and Sex is what the characters have not said; either to themselves or others. Doran, a writer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Showtime’s The Masters of Sex, is no stranger to confrontation and the affairs of the heart and libido. With this play, she’s carefully crafted a sweet story of personal growth that is universal in nature and ingrained with just the right amount of humor to balance the angst.
Doran skillfully introduces the four main characters at a sit-down dinner party thrown by college roommates and childhood friends Charlotte and Johnny. It’s a true sit down as the couple have no chairs, no meat, no butter, much to the chagrin of Charlotte’s father Howard. Mother Lucinda calls it ‘bohemian’ and wonders if Charlotte an Johnny are more than just ‘friends’.
Charlotte and her father are white and Jewish, Lucinda is a Judaic convert with a deeply Southern accent and Johnny is a black Baptist. Doran explores issues of Jewish liberalism through the interactions between Howard, a writer of slightly racist and sexist pulp detective fiction and Johnny, a closeted gay, and budding writer himself.
Gay issues intrude between Charlotte and Johnny of course. She falls for a woman and Johnny abandons his relationship with his girlfriend for a down-low tryst with a man. It’s a coming out story fraught with self-doubt, self-loathing and confusion skillfully acted out by Linda Maria Giron as Charlotte and Kenny Scott as Johnny.
Howard and Lucinda have their own issues; the marriage is symbolic only, she will announce she’s having an affair at the end of the first act. Howard will be challenged over his works and eventually have an epiphany of sorts. Lucinda quits cigarettes for pot, joins the Peace Corp and explores her sexuality. Dave Sikula is marvelous as a liberal forced to face his inconsistencies, and Shay Oglesby-Smith owns the second act with her kooky libertine attitudes.
The Mystery of Love and Sex tackles big issues is a sensitively drawn family construct that engages the audience with both drama and humor.
The Mystery of Love and Sex continues through May 20th, 2018 in production by New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at 415.861.8972 or www.nctcsf.org