“The Mystery of Love & Sex” at ACT

“All the complications of being human…” that’s what ACT’s Artistic Director John Langs suggests this play is about. Laced with marvelous humor throughout, the playwright, Bathsheba Doran explores religious, racial, sexual, and familial issues, and weaves it all together in superb fashion. Does this play try to cover too much ground? Maybe it does, but it certainly worked for me.

Doran has a grand time playing with stereotypes, and Director Allison Narver has honed her cast to sharp perfection as each reveals a type. Shining through it all is truth about growing up, growing older, growing to accept yourself and your loved ones, and growing beyond your preconceived notions and prejudices.

Photo by Shawn Baker

Charlotte and Johnny, friends in high school, go off to college and room together. She’s Jewish. He’s a black Baptist. Like an old married couple, they entertain her parents (pretty much on the floor, with vegetarian food. You’ll enjoy seeing how the older couple adjusts to that!). But Charlotte and Johnny are indeed not a couple in the romantic way. She’s exploring her sexuality. He’s got religious and other issues as well.

Emily Chisholm as Charlotte brings sauciness to the role and mixes it with confusion. As she comes to realize things about herself, she also gains insight into her family. There’s a mountain of unexplored emotional angst in Mom and Dad’s relationship too.

Ray Abruzzo as Charlotte’s Jewish father exudes love for his darling daughter whose decisions trouble him. He’s wired! He’s neurotic. He wants so much for her life to be right yet he sees it going so wrong. Mary Kae Irvin as Charlotte’s mom, the frustrated southern WASP (think low key Tennessee Williams) married to the New York Jew brings a cool sensibility mixed with her own personal angst to the role.

Lorenzo Roberts as Jonny also has a whole lot of questions about who he is or what he is. He covers the insecurities with a charming innocence. You can see why Charlotte would want to room with him, would turn down a place in an Ivy League school to do it.

This is a darkly funny play where many secrets are held and some are even revealed. It’s loaded with emotional fireworks, yet they are interspersed with tender moments. The writing is sharp. The acting is unassailable. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

Through June 26 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle (206 292-7676 or service@acttheatre.org).

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