Review: The Mystery of Love and Sex (Writers Theatre)

| April 18, 2017

Travis Turner and Hayley Burgess star as Jonny and Charlotte in The Mystery of Love and Sex           
      
  

The Mystery
  of Love and Sex

Written by Bathsheba Doran
Writers Theatre, Glencoe (map)
thru July 2  |  tix: $35-$80  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Good direction can’t overcome abundant millennial navel-gazing

  

Hayley Burgess and Travis Turner star as Charlotte and Jonny in Mystery of Love and Sex

    
Writers Theatre presents
    
The Mystery of Love and Sex

Review by Catey Sullivan

Be forewarned: Despite the title, you won’t leave The Mystery of Love and Sex knowing any more about the titular issues than you did going in. Bathsheba Doran’s drama isn’t a probe into the primal profundities of the title but the story of two millennials and their sexual evolution. From undergrad dorm room to backyard wedding ceremony, Doran follows best friends Charlotte and Jonny as they test the limits of a platonic friendship Travis Turner and Hayley Burgess star as Jonny and Charlotte in Myster of Love and Sexcomplicated by sexual awakening.

Director Marti Lyons deploys a deft hand with The Mystery of Love and Sex. She keeps the pacing taut and elegantly navigates the thin line between humor and pathos. What she can’t overcome is the over-abundance of millennial naval-gazing that makes up the bulk of the play.

In Charlotte (Hayley Burgess) and Jonny (Travis Turner), Doran has two characters who are defined by their self-absorption. Watching them twist themselves into knots over how to define their relationship and their sexual proclivities is akin to watching an episode of “Girls” – It’s occasionally funny, but the blinkered, insular world of characters unable to look beyond themselves becomes grating quickly. Midway through, you might well want to tell Charlotte and Jonny to get out of their own heads and get over themselves.

Charlotte’s parents Howard (Keith Kupferer usually, understudy Mark David Kaplan at the performance I saw) and Lucinda (Lia Mortensen) open up the drama a bit. Howard is a mystery writer, Lucinda a once-and-forever southern belle. Through them, Doran gives a glimpse of the forces that shaped Charlotte and Jonny, who spent much of his childhood with Charlotte’s family. But The Mystery of Love and Sex is first and last about Charlotte and Jonny – and neither of them is intriguing enough to carry a two-hour drama.

Hayley Burgess stars as Charlotte in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers Theatre Lia Mortensen and Keith Kupferer star in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers TheatreHayley Burgess and Lia Mortenesen star in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers Theatre Travis Turner and Hayley Burgess star as Jonny and Charlotte in The Mystery of Love and SexHayley Burgess and Travis Turner star as Charlotte and Jonny in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers

You don’t need to look further than Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune to know that sexual character studies can make for compelling, universally appealing dramas. That doesn’t happen here because Charlotte and Jonny don’t have anything especially profound or original to say to each other or to Howard and Lucinda.

There are places where Doran’s script shows glimmers of potential. Jonny is black and Charlotte is white. Charlotte’s father Howard’s is a mystery writer who initially seems like a tolerant, liberal ally with an inclusive, open-minded attitude toward minorities. Howard’s novels, however, reveal something quite different about their author. When Jonny confronts Howard about the rampant racism, sexism and homophobia in his mysteries, The Mystery of Love and Sex becomes explosively effective. The scene between the two is a scorcher, and it marks Turner as an actor with a potentially huge career ahead of him.

It also makes you wish that Doran had focused more on bigotry and less on millennial sex. For all the drama Charlotte and Jonny bring to the table, there’s little that makes Doran’s drama compelling.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

The Mystery of Love and Sex continues through July 2nd at Writers’s Gillian Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe (map), with performances Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays 3pm & 7:30pm, Thursdays-Fridays 7:30pm, 3pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm & 6pm.  Tickets are $35-$80, and are available by phone (847-242-6000) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at WritersTheatre.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Lia Mortensen, Hayley Burgess, Keith Kupferer and Travis Turner star in Mystery of Love and Sex

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Lia Mortensen (Lucinda), Hayley Burgess (Charlotte), Travis Turner (Jonny), Keith Kupferer (Howard), Jerry Miller (Howard’s father), Mark David Kaplan (understudy)

behind the scenes

Marti Lyons (director), Andrew Boyce (scenic design), Samantha C. Jones (costume design), Paul Toben (lighting design), Andrew Hansen (sound design), Rebecca Adelsheim (dramaturg), Tyrone Phillips (assistant director), Rebecca Pechter (stage manager), Mallory Jane Bass, Janelle Boudreau (asst. stage managers), Geoff Button (casting director, associate producer), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Lia Mortensen stars as Lucinda in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers TheatreHayley Burgess and Travis Turner star as Charlotte and Jonny in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers TheatreTravis Turner and Keith Kupferer star in Mystery of Love and Sex, Writers Theatre

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Gillian Theatre, Video, Writers' Theatre, YouTube

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