by Ed Malin · August 18, 2015
Paraphilia (perversion), I hope, will bring us together. If no one’s sexual preferences are “normal”, then everyone is a deviant; what a relief. So goes many a conversation in the offices of Margo Aisling (Sarah Rosen), a sexual therapist who is out to help the various characters in this play. Playwright Lorne Svarc and Director Kristin J Heckler (and indeed the whole of Recognize Theatre) are on a mission to “challenge society’s persisting discrimination with regard to gender and sexuality.”
Margo listens to Ruth (Kelsey Foltz), a straight-laced woman who is having trouble connecting with her boyfriend. Though she makes him out to be very reasonable, she is dealing with a condition—vaginismus—which restricts her ability to please him. As the story progresses, Ruth accepts her fondness for her couch pillows and unlocks her powerful desire. So what if the boyfriend wasn’t actually very good to her? Jonah (Nic Marrone) asks for help so he can stop worrying about millions of things happening in the universe that are inhibiting his access to women. He cannot as of yet say hello to a woman without having a panic attack. Gradually, he finds that a woman of his liking feels the same way, but feels less scared when they talk about their feelings. Caleb (Daniel Morrison) is feeling even more isolated. He feels most secure at his job, which is reshelving books at the library, avoiding people and communing with his headphones. Ever since a young Caleb was in the choir and started to get aroused in church, he has been deeply ashamed and secretive. As Caleb comes to grips with his feelings in therapy, he also acts on them in public and needs legal assistance.
While Margo juggles her many responsibilities, one night she is reading a sexuality sourcebook at a bar when Brian (Will Brosnahan) attempts to put the moves on her. Though it is tempting not to deign to respond, Margo critiques Brian’s approach. This has a profound effect on Brian’s life, and he seeks Margo out and apologizes to her. It turns out Brian is a human rights lawyer, and, understanding that women are expected to be wary of men in general, he proves himself to be a really nice guy. He is even, upon further investigation, a good match for Margo and helps find Caleb legal representation.
Brian is the masculine person who asks the questions that inquiring audience members may also have. For example, would someone who exposes himself in public places be more comfortable in an institution? The counterargument given here is that homosexuality was one viewed (by the medical establishment as a disorder and thus were many perfectly normal people’s lives ruined. It is very engaging to think of what might be considered normal sexual expression 100 years in the future. My mind went to the stories of people with apotemnophilia, those who go to Mexico to get “vanity amputations” because their right to such procedures is questioned at home. Or even the long-lived battle for control over euthanasia. At the very least, we could all try to understand each other better, right here, right now. Perhaps we would believe Pope Francis if he were to explain “there is nothing new under the sun”.
Bravo to the brave cast who convincingly show us these private confessions. Congratulations to the talented playwright and director—who are also the show’s co-producers—for reminding us to be nice. Many of us may know stories of people who were misunderstood, and deserved better.