Scene: By Jenni Prisk ” The Mystery of Love and Sex”
Executive Artistic Director Matt M. Morrow of Diversionary is a gift to the San Diego theatre community. Playwright Bathsheba Doran is also a gift with her play The Mystery of Love and Sex playing at Diversionary through December 24. You must see this production!
For two hours, four characters whose lives are inextricably interwoven weave an intricate story of the mysteries we all face when it comes to love and sex, in a way that is compelling, consummate, and very convincing.
A pair of college friends, Charlotte (Rachel VanWormer) and Jonny (John W. Wells III) invite her parents Lucinda (Marci Anne Wuebben) and Howard (Mike Sears) over for an alfresco meal, complete with candle light, the best cheap wine, a sheet for a tablecloth, but without chairs and butter for the bread, much to Howard’s chagrin.
Through some awkward, yet very humorous moments, the four attempt to meet in the middle without much success. There is a great deal of questioning underlying the conversation among the couples. Howard is a New York Jew and a writer of detective novels; Lulu as he calls his Southern-reared wife, is a housewife and a mom who is trying as hard as she can at anything, to give up smoking.
When Jonny leaves to buy butter, Charlotte’s parents press her for details of her relationship with him. The kids grew up together, but it would seem that there’s a significant change in their bond.
When the parents leave, Jonny and Charlotte engage in a deep conversation about sex and sexuality. Charlotte thinks she might be gay, and that perhaps it would be a good idea if she and Jonny had sex together to help him them both out (he’s a virgin.) Charlotte literally bares all in her attempt to blatantly “seduce” Jonny, who turns away in embarrassment and fear.
Jonny would like to interview Howard for a paper he is writing and the two make several thwarted attempts to sit down together, but like a good detective novel, there are twists and turns that prevent the event from occurring. Howard is condescending and demanding in his dialogue with Jonny, who is black, sensitive and not sure if he’s gay. Father to daughter, Howard is very different, adoring her for all her intensity and skittishness. Lucinda rides through the ebb and flow of the many tides that rise up during the examination of the relationships with irony and sarcasm that both cleverly hit the mark.
And there I shall stop for fear of spoiling your experience when you see this amazing exposé of what makes us human.
VanWormer grows in talent in every production, and this is no exception. She morphs from flighty teen to sophisticated and mature adult, flying across the spectrum with ease and abandonment, always loving her parents although they drive her to distraction, trying to keep Jonny close but failing at that, and eventually understanding and loving her own sexuality.
Wells is required to match VanWormer (not compete with her) and this he does very well, through quiet reflections, moments of joy and of hurtfulness. He is courteous and respectful and holds on till the end and his moment of redemption.
Sears always impresses. He climbs inside the skin of a character until the lines between him and the person he’s playing disappear. He is disaffected and demanding almost in the same breath, aware of his own strength and the damage it can do. His sarcasm is of the vicious kind.
Wuebben is a delight. With the nuances of a Southern Belle in remission, she surveys the situations and offers her droll humor and wise platitudes with perfect timing.
Morrow’s hand is in all the work. Whether it be a couple or all four, the depth and intensity of the conversations strike chords that resonate. We feel that we have been with the characters for days, if not months. Sean Fanning’s scenic designs easily carry the play through the multiple scenes by use of curtains and locational backdrops. Elisa Benzoni’s costumes are just right. Karen Filijan provides appropriate lighting, and Blair Nelson’s music is fun!
This is theatre in its true form; absorbing, testing, tantalizing and grounded. See it and watch your own life, your own heartbreaks and big decisions dance before you, as you discover that you’re not alone in the mysteries of love and sex.