Sexual Perversity in Chicago
December 31st, 2006
By Joseph N. Feinstein – May 2004
This one-act, sixty-minute play evinces both Mr. Mamet’s inexperience and future greatness. In any event, it features four actors – Kyle Bornheimer, Bob Rusch, Julie Mintz and Pip Newson – who are definitely headed for stardom.
Bernie’s (Rusch) fast-talking, wise-ass remarks about women to his buddy Danny (Bornheimer) reflect the cleverness and understanding of human nature in the neophyte Mamet’s depiction of a summer in 1976. Deborah’s (Mintz) innocence in her live-together relationship with Danny also portrays the pitfalls in such an arrangement. And Joan’s (Newson) caustic remarks and overt jealousy in losing a friend were acted with just the right intonations.
This play, like several others seen lately, makes the mistake of using at least twenty blackouts in the sixty minutes of performance. In fact, there’s more black than light during its running time. One can become breathless following the characters and their interactions. Just when the viewer is getting into the action of the scene, it’s over. Strangely, one of the best scenes in the play happens during one of the blackouts.
Perversity is being “directed away from anything right or good.” In this case, Mamet is attempting to show us – as if we didn’t already know – the several ways both men and women regard each other and the crass terms and characterizations we use in describing the other when our romantic and sexual needs aren’t met. And, ultimately, we can see the loss of the compassion and love we all could rise to in our treatment of each other if sensibility and sensitivity became ours.
Cleverly, imaginatively, yet somewhat naively, Mamet tell his story. Credit a fine cast and some good direction to James Sharpe in keeping the play moving as well as it does. Carlene Bezevic’s interesting 70’s costumes were first rate. We’ll look forward to future performances by SkyPilot, this new kid on the block.
Sexual Perversity in Chicago Sidewalk Studio Theatre 4250 Riverside Dr. Burbank Sunday @ 7:00 p.m., Monday @ 8:00 p.m. No charge for admission Donations accepted. Free wine and soft drinks during this opening run.
From what information I collected about the dating world in the late 70s, it turned out to be the most exhilarating and frustrating time for both sexes. The sexual revolution of the ’70s is the bastard child from the one-night stand of the strict guidelines of the ’50s and the sexual liberation of the ’60s. The result is playing a whole new game where the old rules don’t fit. The world is different and people try their best to keep up.
It is a new era where women work outside the home making either the same or more money than their male colleagues. The days of asking the man for an allowance á la I Love Lucy days are a distant memory. Women are now able to take care of themselves financially. However when it comes to dating, the women are just as perplexed as the men. The dating scene has changed drastically and mistakes will be made. David Mamet captures perfectly how the old rules of dating fight to stay alive in contemporary times. He shows that if you don’t go with the times you’ll be left way behind and stay there.
Bernie Litko (Bob Rusch) is the last of a dying chauvinistic breed. He’s rude, obnoxious, full of unbelievable stories of incredible sexual encounters that he shares proudly with co-worker and best friend Danny Shapiro (Kyle Bornheimer). The first time the audience meets Bernie he’s in the middle of telling Danny an incredible sexual conquest he recently had. Bernie holds nothing back as he proudly puffs out his chest recounting the night. Danny has no problem being a captive audience.
Danny falls in love with a free spirited commercial artist Deborah (Julie Mintz) and after a few dates the couple quickly moves in to live together. Much to the dismay of Bernie, who at first sees it an opportunity for a threesome, and Deborah’s former roommate Joan (Pip Newson) considers the relationship doomed. Living together isn’t as blissful as the couple envisioned. They fight over minor details and realize that moving in causes more friction than pleasure.
Sexual Perversity is a series of brief, rapid scenes still connected to form a great story. Along with the ups and downs of dating, the audience gets to see a more personal side to each character. Joan is a neurotic schoolteacher who’s sexually frustrated and ironically can’t stand kids. Earlier, she meets Bernie at a bar that manipulates the conversation after she turns him down. This is a perfect example how the dating regime clashes and burns. Bernie is old school with no hint of changing whereas Joan is trying to own her new female empowerment and not doing a great job. Rusch is hysterical as the over-inflated Bernie. He’s funny, talks a lot of smack and sees nothing wrong with his candor. As the poster child for an extinct male species, he’s admired by fellow men and a true to life nightmare for women. The war between sexes has never been so funny and sad at the same time.