Originally produced by the theatre company, trip., in New York City, and ripened in Chicago where even an ice storm couldn’t keep the sold out audiences away, 4Play: Sex in a Series is one of the most immersive shows currently running. Written by Graham Brown, with Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth, the cast of sixteen is close enough, in the snug confines of The Other Space at The Actors Company, to touch the audience physically as well as emotionally. The cast prowls around cocktail tables scattered throughout the performance area, where the audience can sit or stand while nursing a drink as the actors deliver an engrossing evening of first class theatre. For those who might be shy to be in such intimate close quarters, there are convenient benches available against the walls of the space.
As for the content of the show, it is essentially the story of three Manhattan couples, gay, lesbian and heterosexual that fall in love in fits and starts. No conflict, no drama, so of course there must be incidents, some unforeseen hiccups of behavior that shake the tender bonds of new love. A character known as “the director” (Mr. Brown), in a perhaps ill-advised moment of drunkenness, goes home with a gay guy. Did something happen? Who knows? The director claims to have no memory and the gay guy won’t help him there. A young woman, “the lesbian” (Ariana Anderson), answers an ad for a room in a three bedroom apartment, and tentatively forms an attachment with “the roommate” (Zoë Simpson Dean).
Here things get complicated. It seems that the roommates scenario is the script of a play that the director is directing, and the woman who is cast as the third roommate (Eve Danzeisen) little by little becomes “the girlfriend” of the director. “The stage manager” (Kaitlin Large) scowls at the director’s self-delusion. Is the entire action merely the stuff that dreams are made of? Who knows, and really who needs to know? The whole thing gets sticky when the director learns that the attractive, well groomed, arch young man (Cameron J. Oro), with whom he may or may not have had a gay tryst, is the lover his “best friend” (Dustyn Gulledge), or as the program denotes him, “the best friend’s boyfriend.” Oh my, but it is a delicious stew of desire, all upfront and personal, and so close to the audience that one can look the characters right in the eye. And they look right back atcha!
The show had me at the gitgo when Marian Frizelle kicked off the action with a sultry rendition of Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.” Completing the cast are Kirstin Racicot as “the tequila,” Kelsey Risher as “the actress,” and Bevin Bru as the roommate’s feisty, unfettered “little sister.”
There is so much I like about this show. I like that when the scene shifts away from a set of actors, they become audience. My ears pricked and I had a glow of joy when I heard the familiar words, “I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that strange?”—Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1. I love the complexity of it and the passion of the players.
4Play: Sex In A Series is directed by Mr. Brown, one of those rare playwrights who can create a script, direct it, and take the lead role in sterling fashion. The word kudos applies. Produced by the theatre company, trip. [sic], 4Play: Sex In A Series continues through March 17 at The Actors Company, 916 A North Formosa Avenue in Los Angeles.