Entering the Actor's Company space in West Hollywood, one might question whether they are in the right place. With a bar near the entrance and cocktail tables scattered about, this is not your usual theatre setting. "4PLAY: Sex in a Series"–written by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree, and Lisa Roth, and directed by Graham Brown– is not your usual play, and its reverse theatre-in-the-round setting, where the action happens around and between the audience members, makes for an energetic and lively show.
The story centers around three couples, or as they put it, "boy meets girl, boys meets boy, girl meets girl". It takes us through the thrills of new relationships, the first "I love yous", and the moments of discovering oneself in someone else, all with humor and delightful levity. The characters, such as "The Roommate" (USC Alum Zoë Simpson Dean) and "The Best Friend" (Dustin Gulledge) are intentionally archetypal, but still provide a genuine exploration of contemporary relationships as their paths cross in a beautiful puzzle of human connection and broken fourth walls.
Despite the suggestive title and promotional material, "4PLAY" is not vulgar or over-sexualized in any way. The performances feel emotionally intimate, so there is no need to feature nudity or explicit sex scenes. It is sensual without making its audience uncomfortable, a feat hard to attain and worthy of praise.
The work's flaw, however, lies in its overabundance of characters. There are a couple of individuals who appear for a split second and say a few lines, but don't contribute to the overall story and could have easily been scrapped. In addition, the cast lacks ethnic or racial diversity which, for a show set in New York City and which hopes to represent 'all of us', is something casting directors should bear in mind should this show be produced again.
And this show should be produced again. Its dynamic direction keeps audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the entire show, and its minimalist set keeps the focus on what really matters—the characters' emotional connections. The purposeful camp of "4PLAY" keeps it from becoming too sappy, and its realistic portrayal of romance is bound to resonate with anyone who has ever loved, or been loved.
A heart-warming and extremely fun experience," 4PLAY" is perfect for a special date night, or simply for an evening out with close pals.
"4PLAY: Sex in a Series" is playing through March 17, at The Actors Company (916 A North Formosa Ave, Los Angeles). Tickets are $25. For more information visit www.tripnyc.org/4play.