By Annette Hinkle
In the early 1990s, a self-help book by relationship counselor John Gray changed the world by highlighting the differences between genders — its title, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” became a cliché for the many ways in which men and women simply do not connect.
Now, we have “Sex: What She’s Really Thinking,” a new play enjoying its inaugural production at the Southampton Cultural Center (SCC). Written and conceived by Ilene Beckerman with input from Michael Disher it’s a refreshing little piece for the dark days of winter and an honest look at the facts, figures and fantasies that most women keep to themselves.
Yes, this play is all about women and intimacy — what they think, what they feel, what they wish was different. With an ensemble cast of six women and two men (their views on the subject are in here too) the material is honest, unedited and often spot on. Delivered as a series of short monologues, dialogues and the occasional one liner, the fast pacing of the piece means that even if a bit falls flat, the next comes along quickly enough to offer redemption.
And speaking of redemption, when among the right audience, it can feel like a good old fashioned revival. There’s a lot of sister solidarity in this play, and the fun comes from the interaction between cast and audience. Rather than “Amens,” (although that’s certainly an appropriate reaction to much of the material) expect lots of knowing giggles, an occasional “that’s right girl” and commiserating applause at certain points.
That must mean Beckerman and Disher are on to something with this dirty little ditty and despite the title, not all insights are from the point of view of women which makes it good date night fare (leave the kids at home). The notion of men’s insatiable needs and their inability to often carry through on intentions (especially as they age) is one theme, women’s indifference and lack of interest after decades of marriage is another. Also included are men-centric skits, including a game of charades in which the guys act out relationship oxymoron’s. Marital bliss, anyone?
The cast features Bonnie Grice, Joan Lyons, Matthew O’Connor, Tom Rosante, Amy Rowland, Danielle Shuman, Gina Surnicki and Josephine Wallace, and the play begins where most sexual encounters start — the first time. For most of these characters, it was forgettable, regrettable or something to be done with as soon as possible — like dental surgery.
In writing this play, Beckerman surveyed several women friends of Disher in order to gauge their concerns and reactions to certain subjects related to sex. Though hardly scientific, the responses provided fertile ground worth exploring. Which is why women in the audience will take heart and find a sense of camaraderie with this production, if only to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Whew, I’m glad I’m not the only one.”
Fortunately, there are also plenty of topics that spice up the evening, including an exploration of sex toys and recurring comic relief in the form of a young woman in a nightie who offers naughty nursery rhymes to get the blood boiling. Also amusing is a bit on the apparently universal fantasy men have for a ménage à trois — in this case, via a casual conversation between a middle aged man and his unamused wife while they are shopping. He pushes the idea until his pragmatic partner reminds him that such an arrangement would require him to rise to the challenge in a double capacity.
After a moment of introspection, he wisely suggests they just go have lunch instead.
It’s all good, if not entirely clean, fun. Like the ideal pick up line (also addressed here) Beckerman and Disher seemed to have hit on a theatrical subject that, unlike the virility of men of a certain age, never seems to flag. We expect to see more from this duo down the road.
“Sex: What She’s Really Thinking” runs Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through January 26, 2014 at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane, Southampton. Tickets are $22 (students $12). To reserve call 287-4377 or visit www.scc-arts.org.