“The Sexual Lives of Savages” has little to recommend.
Who are these people? In my sheltered life, I’ve not encountered the sexual libertines who populate Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s “The Sexual Lives of Savages.” My idea of a three-way is to leave the TV set on during — you know. With the volume down, of course.
So perhaps I’m not best to judge MacAllister-McDonald’s new play, which is getting a shakedown cruise at Walking Shadow Theatre Company.
Generously assessed, it is half baked and filled with thoroughly unlikable characters in pursuit of … what? Is it an argument for the sex positive movement; the idea that love and sex are two different things?
Perhaps that’s it, but MacAllister-McDonald’s instrument is so blunt that he pricks not further discussion but rather a resolve to get into a quick shower. A scribble in my notebook during the first act says, “I’ve lost interest.”
Director Amy Rummenie’s production doesn’t help. Joe Bombard plays Hal, who is so stunted that it’s impossible to believe he has somehow made it with seven women before he hooked up with Jean (Meghan Kreidler). She blows his mind with her revelation that her number is 25.
Friend Clark (Nicholas Leeman) scoffs at Hal’s unease. He and his wife swing often and with great zest. A newcomer enters Hal’s life in Alice (Clare Parme), a lovely young woman who has never made the beast with two backs. Throw in Naomi (Megan Dowd), who’s eager for a walk on the wild side, and you have the makings for a pretty dysfunctional orgy.
Let’s set aside squeamish reactions to dialogue about cucumbers, group masturbation and a gratuitous reference to rape victims. On dramaturgical terms alone, this play and production come up short.
MacAllister-McDonald allows his writing to get bogged down in wordplay, willful obscurity and that frustrating habit of wallowing in an argument that all of us can see has a simple resolution. How long can you debate whether oral sex really counts as sex — and why should I care? We get it (the issue, not oral sex); move on.
Bombard is the wrong person to play Hal. There is no likable innocence in his portrayal, no charm in his angst over sexuality. He’s just a whiny prude.
Leeman is actually funny and he commits bravely to the horribleness of Clark’s character; same with Dowd, who looks like she’s at least having fun with Naomi. Kreidler’s Jean is possibly the sanest of this bunch. Parme is endearing in the thankless role of Alice. Again, it must be said, that to a person these are not people you care to know.
About the only bright spot in the production is Katharine Horowitz’s sound design, which buffers each scene with a dollop of style.
Walking Shadow is a favorite small troupe of mine. Led by thoughtful, smart and adventurous souls, they’ve carved out a niche through dedication and hard work. They promote new work — either their own or others — with routinely strong production values.
This play likely appealed to them for its risky (pronounced risqué) subject matter. Suffice to say, we all make mistakes. Here’s hoping for better travels next time.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299