by Sarah M. Chichester · April 21, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #76 Sarah M. Chichester looks at Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra, playing at Playwrights' Horizons' Peter J. Sharp Theatre
In Kirk Lynn’s comedy Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra, set in the mid 90’s, Reggie (Chris Stack) asks his girlfriend Carla (Zoe Sophia Garcia) to marry him, to which she agrees on one condition: if they reenact all the major experiences from both of their sexual pasts with each other so both of them can truly understand one another thoroughly by experiencing it with them. Years later (2012), Carla and Reggie’s teenage daughter, Bernie (Ismania Mendes), experiences her own trauma that leads to their experiences being discussed and confronted a second time, bringing about unexpected hope for them to be able to repair the damage brought on by others.
As a play that focuses on what are the boundaries to intimacy, we see these events unfold before our eyes by feeling the trauma within the characters, as they struggle to deal with what has happened to them. We experience their reactions to these events before, during, and after so we get a full experience of what they are going through.
Usually in a production that involves a topic that’s rather deep and intense, one might feel rather overwhelmed by watching and experiencing it. However, this play never once leads the audience to dwell on any difficult feelings as the play has many comedic moments (which the actors portrayed beautifully) keeping it softer yet still delicately on topic. Along with that, it never once made the material it focused on come off as cheapened or offensive through the comedy.
Anne Kauffman’s direction is particularly strong. The production has a light quick tempo, seamless transitions, and a simplistic yet tasteful and effective vision that makes the story easy to follow and experience. The performance of the ensemble of actors (which also includes Rebecca Henderson, Maxx Brawer, and Will Pullen) is overall strong. Stack and Henderson both being in the two time periods this play takes place in, transition very well and perform both ages quite effectively. (One thing about Stack is that while he acted as a father well, he didn’t look like a father in appearance.)
Two elements of this production that added to the overall effect was the set (designed by Laura Jellinek) -- the stage was painted white and made to look like a living room for most of the play but was easy to imagine being elsewhere when the characters weren’t in a home -- and the lighting (designed by Ben Stanton), almost all done with practical overhead lamps which was cohesive to the set, using front light to see their faces.