Saturday, January 18, 2014

The End of Sex—Theatre Vertigo—SE Portland

A New Age

This dark, adult comedy by Craig Jessen is playing at the Shoebox Theatre space at 2110 SE 10th Ave. and is part of the Fertile Ground Festival.  It is directed by Brandon Woolley and plays through February 15th.  For further information go to their site at

Jessen’s play is quite an eye-opener and definitely adult in nature.  It introduces us to a world in which intimacy may not be necessary for sexual satisfaction.  And, in this new age of non-touchy/feely communication, with the advent of the almighty new god called, the Internet, he might just be frighteningly right.

The story centers around Sam (Stephanie Cordell) who is the head of one team in a research lab, attempting to find a safe cream or pill that will increase sexual activity for those having trouble in that area.  She is aided by her able assistant, Zoe (Beth Thompson) and, together, are trying to be the first team to find that secret, so that they will get the fame and monies due them.

Their chief adversary is Benson (Nathan Crosby) a ruthless team leader who once cheated Sam out of the recognition she deserved on a previous project.  So he, and his nerdy co-worker, Ted (R. David Wyllie), plan to win by any devious means necessary.  Their teams are overseen by Maddocks (Tom Mounsey), who has an attraction to Sam, but she also happens to be married to a newsman, Howard (Jason Glick), although their marriage seems to be floundering.

Meanwhile, they are interviewing people as possible human subjects for this experiment.  There is Darla (Holly Wigmore), a dancer, left wanting by her husband; Cordelia (Shawna Nordman), a Christian and a virgin, who has problems with sexual intimacy; Glen (Kelsey Tyler), who is a farmer and finds satisfaction in sexual contact with his animals; and, Marcie (Pam Mahon), who gets off on classical music.

To make a long story short, Sam does succeed in creating such a cream but it works on any part of the body it comes in contact with…wrist, ears, neck, knuckles, et. al., thus eliminating the need for actual sexual intercourse to achieve an orgasm.  Meaning, perhaps, that there would be no future generations, no need for sexual intimacy and potential damage to the unused sexual parts of our body.

The tale also becomes political charged, as well, as relationships deteriorate and reform, new discoveries are made concerning the invention, the baddies get their comeuppance, and some will live, if not happily, certainly, hopefully ever after.  I can’t tell too much of the story which might spoil discoveries for the audience.  It’s very wise that Jessen has kept a dark humor throughout and has a damn good story to boot, as those are the strengths of his script.  This definitely has cinematic qualities to it, perhaps in the lap of Tina Fey.

The acting is top-notch throughout, especially Cordell as the lead.  You see her develop as she flounders in different directions, making mistakes, being blind-sided, almost losing her love and, in the end, just being very human.  A wonderful performance.  And Glick, as her husband, who, at first seems rather pedestrian, finally shows his true colors, and you embrace him as well.  Nicely done.  Whyllie as the nerdy, clumsy assistant turns out to be a hero, of sorts, and he plays these layers well.  Thompson also gives us a complex character who, is loyal, but wants a piece of the pie, too, and is able to unravel the mystery of the cream.  Hope to see more of her onstage.  And the four human subjects are a hoot.  They are perfect for the parts and give the play much of the humor.

And the director, Woolley, certainly understands these characters and has done a terrific job of leading them through a complex and touchy subject.  This show is, indeed, worth one’s time to see.  I recommend it but, as mentioned, it is definitely not for those that are easily offended.  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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