Samuel Beckett gave his characters abstract names like Vladimir, Pozzo and Estragon to emphasize the abstract nature of his plays. Local writer Gabrielle Reisman took a different approach in her entertaining conundrum of a play I Want Sex All the Time, recently produced at AllWays Lounge.
The title is clearly provocative, but the subject matter is restrained. The set (by Michael Martin and Jennifer Growden) is a sandy beach with three modern reclining beach chairs. Everything seems simple until the characters enter: Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen (Raphaelle O'Neil), accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Charmian (Britain Valenti). The ancient Egyptians do not seem like ordinary sunbathers, but Cleopatra qualifies as a hedonist of the highest order. One can imagine her bragging about her carnal appetites. Both Egyptians spring from the pages of Shakespeare, and both have a sardonic disdain for the ways of the world.
The three other characters spring from Shakespeare as well: Regan (Growden), Goneril (Jane McNulty) and Cordelia (Meredith Mullins), King Lear's daughters.
Beckett can be puzzling, but that's because he's puzzled by the world and by human nature. One doesn't need special knowledge of the classics to follow the tragicomic narrative of Waiting for Godot. With Reisman, the existential absurdity is complicated by references to the Bard.
Beckett's influence is noticeable in the weird, abstract nature of this particular beach — a nowhere land in time and space. Here, Shakespeare's characters drink pina coladas through curled plastic straws and spray sunblock on their arms.
The women seem to remember being on the beach before, but not quite. They also think a ship will come to take them away, but to where? The past? A different dimension? We never find out. The beach is a surreal purgatory. Part of the expiation suffered here is the helplessness of not remembering.
Now we're getting closer to what unites the characters. Cleopatra, Regan and Goneril have much for which to atone. And maybe even the virtuous Cordelia was a bit of a Goody Two-Shoes when she denied her vain father the words of adoration he demanded.
The enigmatic nature of I Want Sex, however, doesn't diminish its entertainment value. The dialogue is well written and, under Kristen Gremillion's direction, the actors keep it alive and cooking. It's especially pleasing to see the talented O'Neil back on the stage after a two-year absence. — Dalt Wonk