Review: 4PLAY sex in a series (trip.)

| February 20, 2014
Rosa SanMarci and Erin O’Brien star in "4PLAY sex in a series" by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth. (photo credit: Jason M. Hammond)        
      
4PLAY sex in a series

Written by Graham Brown,
     Nathan Faudree, and Lisa Roth
Directed by Graham Brown
at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru March 15  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Sitcom-stage play has nice atmosphere, but lacks substance

     

Cyra K. Polizzi, Rosa SanMarci and Erin O’Brien in "4PLAY sex in a series" by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth. (photo credit: Jason M. Hammond)

    
trip. presents
    
4PLAY sex in a series

Review by Patrick Dyer

Can sitcoms work onstage? And I don’t mean on a sound stage with a live audience, like how most sitcoms are filmed, but a legitimate theatrical piece with its own space, atmosphere, and emotional stakes. Does a sitcom-style play have enough substance to warrant existing in a theatrical medium? 4PLAY sex in a series takes that approach in its Midwestern premiere.

Colleen O’Neilll and Graham Brown in "4PLAY sex in a series" by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth. (photo credit: Jason M. Hammond)In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a play about sexuality where we follow the lives of eleven adults as they meet, live together, fall in love, fall out of love, and everything in between. A straight man (Graham Brown) writes a play for a straight women (Cyra K. Polizzi) he falls in love with; the straight woman lives with two lesbians (Rosa SanMarchi and Clare Cooney) who discover their love for each other; her bisexual sister (Tamara Lynn Chambers) comes into town and tries to seduce one of her lesbian roommates; two gay men (Joel Behne and Jason M. Hammond) struggle to maintain their relationship especially after one of them made out with the straight man at a club…..and a bunch of other subplots make their way into the piece.

Oddly enough, it’s just like a stereotypical sitcom made in America: creating a lot of characters that are only developed enough to get their personas across, having them all interconnect in some way or another (no matter how contrived), their relationships and all of their comedic possibilities being the focus, and by the end they change to become better people and have stronger relationships. The format of playwrights Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree, and Lisa Roth’s script also takes on a sitcom format: 4PLAY is labeled as “a play in four acts” with each act being a twenty-ish-minute episode. This seems like an interesting arena to explore, but 4PLAY’s television feel doesn’t fully translate to the stage. While I know sitcoms aren’t really known for their incredibly high emotional stakes, it still feels trapped between the two worlds of theater and television without really merging together. The cast of characters don’t even have names (if they did, I missed them) and only have sketchily defined personas, so it’s difficult to be fully invested in what’s happening onstage.

Jason M. Hammond and Joel Behne in 4PLAY sex in "4PLAY sex in a series" by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth. (photo credit: Michele Stine)

As the director, Brown takes advantage of the theatrical space and atmosphere, but not as much with the emotions. The stage is completely bare except for the actors, who stand around waiting for their turn to play their parts, which seemed off-putting at first but I warmed up to it thanks to the cast being self-aware of their surroundings and audience. In fact, there’s even a few jabs at how cliché the play sometimes feels. But the lack of real emotional stakes makes 4PLAY feel a bit thin. That’s not to say it can’t be funny or show insight into human sexual relationships, but it’s never really that hilarious and never says anything new either. Maybe with a more heightened language and emotional stakes, 4PLAY could have a stronger impact. But as is, it’s simply a nice, if not very substantial, play. If you’re in the mood for a post-Valentine’s Day night at the theater, 4PLAY offers just that, but not much more.

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

4PLAY sex in a series continues through March 15th at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 10pm.  Tickets are $20, and are available online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at tripnyc.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Cyra K. Polizzi, Rosa SanMarci and Erin O’Brien in "4PLAY sex in a series" by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth. (photo credit: Jason M. Hammond)

Photos by Jason M. Hammond and Michele Stine


     

artists

cast

Becca Savoy, Cyra K. Polizzi, Graham Brown, Joel Behne, Jason M. Hammond, Erin O’ Brien, Rosa SanMarchi, Tamara Lynn Chambers, Clare Cooney, Kasey O’Brien, Colleen O’Neill (ensemble)

behind the scenes

Graham Brown (director), Jason M. Hammond, Michele Stine (photos)

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Category: 2014 Reviews, Den Theatre, Patrick Dyer

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