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Theater Tue Feb 25 2014
Photo by Jason M. Hammond
The first thing you notice about trip.'s 4PLAY sex in a series is the lack of a traditional stage. Black boxes line the sides of the theater, some up so high audience members' feet dangle down as they perch on them. You can sit anywhere you want. And as everyone mills about, it's unclear at first who's a part of the show and who isn't.
Once the lights go up, the cast members reveal themselves, sitting, walking and interacting among the crowd. When an actor asks the person next to you to hold their drink during a bit of dialogue, you feel less like a member of the audience and more like a friend of a friend tagging along to a house party or a bar.
This lack of separation makes everything feel more real, placing the characters' relationships front and center. And that's how you identify the people you meet, through their connections with one another. No names are given. There's the gay best friend. And the roommate. And boyfriends and girlfriends.
As the play gets going it quickly sweeps you along. Billed as four sitcom-style episodes, the tight transitions, exposition, and characters' pacing through the audience is more "The West Wing" than "Friends." The dialogue flows as easily as rounds of drinks, and the cast delivers performances as heartfelt as deep talks shared at 2am. For anyone who has been young and single in the past 10 years, it all feels very familiar.
Passionate kisses are shared, clothes are removed, and people pair off. But in 4PLAY, sex itself is just that: a beginning.
In the mornings after, we see what happens when the physical turns personal. Things get complicated, as they often do, as the characters' lives criss-cross and collide.
This interconnectedness is driven home by one character, central to the action, as he writes and directs a play. He also happens to be played by 4PLAY's co-writer and director, Graham Brown.
While including a play-within-a-play can undermine the realism of everything surrounding it, in 4PLAY, it's done in a self-referential way that keeps it grounded. Things don't get too "meta," and in a larger sense, it serves as a reminder of how we write and re-write history, even as we live it.
Despite its title, 4PLAY isn't a hot, steamy show about doing the deed. But why should it be? Sex in real life isn't all stripteases and sweaty bodies. When the time comes, most of us can barely get our socks off.