In her provocatively titled show, “Bad Sex With Bud Kemp,” writer-performer Sandra Tsing Loh examines the perils of the singles scene, taking audiences on a journey though dating hell; the way Loh tells it, it’s sort of like Dante’s “Inferno,” only worse. There is nothing new about the horrors of dating, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of humorists from dwelling there. Unfortunately, Loh is not particularly funny when it comes to exploring this rite of passage. In fact, her self-consciously ironic pose and resolutely arch delivery grow dull quickly.
Yet Loh has a sharp eye for detail and a good ear for the well-turned phrase. Here is architect Robert Blair, Loh’s own Ralph Fiennes. He is perfect, she tells us, yet she can’t help carping about the way he arranges Gorgonzola and fancy crackers on a plate or his snobbery regarding “Madama Butterfly.” A Brooklyn-born boxer named Tony has other charms, including good sex and an obsession with peanut butter. And, of course, we meet pharmaceutical marketing exec Bud Kemp, geek of geeks, who Loh describes as having a “beaten quality” but good-looking enough for some fun in the sack. Loh segues from these (sometimes putative) romantic partners to more general topics, and she is at her best when discussing sex and the Internet. (Her riff about online spelling errors is the show’s funniest segment.)
But Loh’s antic movements and facial contortions combined with an episodic approach to her material create a gulf between performer and audience. As a result, we never really care about her predicament or relate it to our own troubles in this realm. And when she tells us, without any kind of satisfactory setup, that, oh yes, Bud Kemp is her husband now, well, it’s a point of passing interest rather than a revelation.
Director David Schweizer has kept the pace lively; clever props complement Loh’s monologue, and Kevin Adams’ elegant pale-green-tile set, John D. Palmer’s engaging lighting and Robert Murphy’s apt sound effects enhance this show without shifting the focus from Loh. One only wishes the director had managed to tone down the star’s mugging and occasionally patronizing style.