Review: ‘It’s Just Sex’

Dakota Fanning

Not every show can pull off a start with a solid dose of the hoary '70s chestnut "Afternoon Delight," but the song's goofy vibe suits Jeff Gould's amusing play "It's Just Sex" quite well. The Zephyr Theater's production is a crowd-pleaser, and Gould's low-key direction keeps the staging casual but the laughs at maximum.

Not every show can pull off a start with a solid dose of the hoary ’70s chestnut “Afternoon Delight,” but the song’s goofy vibe suits Jeff Gould’s amusing play “It’s Just Sex” quite well. The characters and the plot developments aren’t entirely believable, and several roles seeming to exist merely to represent a particular point of view, but for all that, the script is convulsively funny and the actors are terrific. The Zephyr Theater’s production is a crowd-pleaser, and Gould’s low-key direction keeps the staging casual but the laughs at maximum.

When Joan (Carolyn Hennesy) comes home one day to find her husband Phil (Eric Lutes) with a prostitute, she internalizes her anger and continues with her plans for that evening’s dinner party. The guests, amiable horndog Carl (Thomas Calabro) and his masseuse wife Kelly (Janelle Guimarra), along with repressed computer tech Greg (Bryan T. Donovan) and his domineering lawyer wife Lisa (Cate Cohen), are unaware of their host’s marital strife, but it gradually becomes apparent.

Joan suggests that the group play a truth game, sharing secrets about themselves, and before the evening is finished, realities of all three marriages will be revealed.

Hennesy’s perf succeeds on a couple of levels, full of caustic wit but underlaid with inner turmoil. Her character, Joan, is largely putting on an act throughout most of the play, but Hennesy layers this act with subtle hints of what Joan is actually feeling, including a quick but indelible moment just prior to the end of act one.

Calabro attracts plentiful laughs as the blunt but surprisingly philosophical Carl, and Guimarra is lively and charming as the fundamentally decent Kelly. Donovan brings a fine nervous sardonic energy as Greg, and his twitchy glee in a scene in which Greg is confidently prepared for an argument with his wife is priceless. Cohen is controlling yet sympathetic as Lisa, and Lutes is good as Phil, although his role seems the least fleshed out as written.

Gary Guidinger’s cozily domestic set, which represents the homes of all three couples, is classy but somehow impersonal, which actually works for the show. Although there is no credited designer, the costumes are all appropriate, from Kelly’s little black dress to Joan’s more formal look; Carl’s hat is a nicely rakish touch.

It's Just Sex

Zephyr Theater, Los Angeles; 82 seats; $30 top

Production

A Dan Harrington, Joye Swan, and Patrick Baca in association with Home Run Prods. presentation of a play in two acts written and directed by Jeff Gould.

Creative

Sets and lighting, Gary Guidinger; sound, Gould; production stage manager, Sandee Terzis. Reviewed June 23, 2007; opened June 9; runs through July 15. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast

Phil - Eric Lutes Joan - Carolyn Hennesy Carl - Thomas Calabro Kelly - Janelle Guimarra Greg - Bryan T. Donovan Lisa - Cate Cohen The Girl - Tiffany Ellen Solano
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