I’m glad to have made it to the last night of Sexual Perversity at the San Francisco Bath House this past Saturday. It’s a great little play full of a range of social commentary on sexual politics in the 1970s. But, it’s a commentary that seems to have amble relevance to contemporary, apparently more enlightened times.
The story centres on four characters living and working in Chicago, although the city could probably be just about any American metropolis in that decade. Danny, Deborah, Bernie and Joan are just four 20-somethings getting along and “gettin’ it on” with all the hilarity the latter entails.
It’s an interesting play because of its apparent exploration of masculinity in a time of extreme social turmoil and ongoing change. Women are waking up to patriarchy and are becoming increasingly ‘stroppy’, a change best characterised by schoolteacher Joan, a woman who seems to constant raise the ire of the guys.
Then there’s latent homosexuality and investigation of the borders of it, best represented by Danny, who in one scene makes suggestions to alpha-male Bernie. But they’re so subtle they go over the guy’s head.
Finally there’s the girl just looking for a decent guy Deborah, who finds out that men haven’t really changed, and ends up back with her old room-mate Joan.
The story isn’t a complicated one, the playwright David Mamet uses his character’s dialogue to drive messages to the audience. And that’s a pity. My main gripe about the play is that sometimes the audience wasn’t permitted to see what I assumed was being intended in the script.
The Bath House was used well, but the plays one act doesn’t allow for a major crisis point to end an Act. Instead, there is a point at which the two love-birds Deborah and Danny have a falling out, and part ways. My impression is that this scene was the pivot on which the play turned, the point at which the irreconcilable differences between the genders was emphasised. But, it seems to have escaped someone. The play drifts over this scene and moves onto the return of Deborah to Joan, and attention switches to the guys hanging out ‘being guys’. Kind of made me wonder if I had read too much into Mamet’s intentions, or whether the emphasis was in fact somewhere else altogether.
Ah well. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a recommendation, should you get a chance to see it in future.