From pen pals to the personals to the Internet, people have been trying to get laid—er, create connections, for centuries. Inspired by Arthur Schnitlzer’s 1897 La Ronde, Sex’D teasingly toys with Gen-Y’s alternating approaches to friending and fucking. While somewhat enjoyable, the end product is as gratifying as dry-humping in your parent’s basement.
Developed as an improv exercise by the Handwritten Productions ensemble (indulgently directed by Lily Raabe), Sex’D comprises 10 scenes with two lovers each, with one character linking to the next scene. (Ten performers share the 20 roles.) Schnitzler’s text is updated to explore how technology has affected romance—here via the gimmick of a single, shared online dating site (never mind that millennials are polyplatform). These serial daters variously seek connection, power, and self-discovery, though Sex’D never develops beyond a casual encounter (never mind AIDS).
Each pairing culminates in a choreographed dance simulating sex. And if you like that sort of thing, the cast also performs stylized erotic choreography between vignettes. The performers, who ad-lib their scenes each night, are brave, though the whole production verges on artistic masturbation. Appropriate to the ticket price, it’s like watching a bare-bones workshop. The vanilla design elements are as functional as the missionary position. Costumes presumably came from the closets of the all-volunteer cast. The character of Hank, a supposedly wealthy financier, looks to be wearing his graduation suit from 1992.
Sex’d is as unbalanced as Seattle’s dating pool: some moments and performers seduced me; others were fraught with performance anxiety. For me, the most humorous, touching, and realistic scene had performers Madison Jade Jones and Luke Sayler delivering droll dialogue and showing real chemistry. Since each night’s performance is different, however, there’s no guarantee that duo will be as good tomorrow. And lesser pairings I saw might well be better. Sex’D, like sex itself, is bound to be hit-and-miss: Tinder meets eHarmony.
Says one character, “If you are going to take the time to write a profile, then spell out ‘You’ instead of using the letter U.” I feel the same about Sex’D: There is potential here, but it needs to be thought out and written down. Then maybe I’ll swipe right.
SEX’D Lab at INScape, 815 Seattle Blvd. S., handwrittenproductions.org. Pay what you will. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends April 25.