Entertainment

It’s Just Sex

by Maya Phillips
Contributor
Thursday Jul 11, 2013
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Cristyn Chandler, Randy Coull, Rhiannon Jones, William Moore, Fatima Pimienta and William Parker Shore
Cristyn Chandler, Randy Coull, Rhiannon Jones, William Moore, Fatima Pimienta and William Parker Shore  

You know you’re not at a regular dinner party when the party game of choice is not Monopoly or Scrabble, but a sexy couple swap. Sooner or later, you’ve got to lay down your cards, and by the end, there will definitely be some winners and some losers.

In the Actors Temple Theatre’s new, sexy comedy "It’s Just Sex!," three couples, each with their own problems, attend their normal dinner party and end up with more than they bargained for. As the play opens, Joan catches her husband, Phil, in the midst of some very inappropriate couch action with a prostitute. But instead of chastising Phil, Joan just whips out the cleaning product, wipes the problem under the rug and prepares for the night’s festivities.

Joining the party are Kelly, Carl, Greg and Lisa. Kelly and Carl seem to have the ideal marriage -- meaning they have sex every chance they get. Greg and Lisa, on the other hand, have a tense relationship, with the overbearing and aggressive Lisa constantly knocking Greg down. After a few too many shots of Grey Goose and a seemingly innocuous confession about a sexual fantasy, partners swap for the night and end up having to face the truths about their relationships.

The comedy of the play derives from the tension that exists between the characters, and that tension doesn’t let up until the end. The play mostly focuses on the relationship between Joan and Phil. Even as the play starts, the audience gets a sense that the relationship comes with a significant amount of baggage that precedes Phil’s tryst with the hooker.

But Joan is determined to bury the issue and instead, lets the tension and anger fester. Throughout the play, she passive-aggressively punishes Phil for his transgression, constantly hinting at it and threatening to reveal the truth about him in front of their friends. It is Joan who, encouraged by Carl’s lighthearted admittance about his couple swap fantasy and her own stifled emotions about the state of her marriage, initiates the swap.

After a few too many shots of Grey Goose and a seemingly innocuous confession about a sexual fantasy, partners swap for the night and end up having to face the truths about their relationships.

Greg and Lisa have a similar tension in their relationship. The controlling and condescending Lisa looks down on her husband and blames him for her restlessness in life. Greg, like Joan, stifles his anger until he realizes that he can no longer stand to stay with the one person who makes him so unhappy.

Kelly and Carl serve as an interesting foil for the other couples. The hyper-sexualized couple is caring and affectionate, with Kelly, a feisty woman with a secret, and Carl, a misogynistic sexual hedonist with the libido of a 12-year-old boy in sex-ed class. Salvator Xuereb as Carl, who always seems ready to unzip his pants in record time, serves as the always impeccably timed comic relief in an already comedic play.

While the show is about sex, it does not leave it there. The show also explores the issues of jealousy, love and trust and takes a look into how different people define a marriage. The relationship between Joan and Phil explores trust and forgiveness, the relationship between Greg and Lisa explores relationship dynamics, and the relationship between Kelly and Carl explores trust and the differentiation between love and lust.

"It’s Just Sex!" takes its time warming up to the main event. With this basic plot, the same cast of characters and a simple set, the show can afford to really take its time to build up the pressure and break down the characters. You know how the night is going to end, but you’re not exactly sure how the characters will get there. All the sex jokes and the passive-aggressive zings the characters dish out simultaneously work to keep you laughing and anxiously waiting at the end of your seat.

However, the method the play uses to dissect the three couples’ relationships becomes a bit too predictable. After the swap, there’s the obvious and artificial round-robin in which one couple takes its turn airing its issues and then passes the baton to the next couple, and on to the next couple, and so on.

Still, "It’s Just Sex!" serves as an real, honest, witty look into love, lust and marriage. Go check out "It’s Just Sex!" to see how the show is truly bringing sexy back.

"It’s Just Sex" enjoys an extended run at the Actors Temple Theatre, 339 W. 47th St. For information or tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.

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