Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Qualms

The Qualms, by Bruce Norris, focuses on a bunch of friends who get together periodically to have sex with one another in twos and threes. They are mellow, sure of what they want, and loving. On the night of the play, a new couple has joined them: Chris and Kristy. Chris and Kristy radiate the awkwardness of people who have never done this before and aren't 100% sure they want to do it now.

Champlin, Lucien
Photo: Joan Marcus
In a way, The Qualms is a Utopia story. A group of people have made the world they want, and it works, until (not to mix metaphors) the snake shows up in the garden of Eden.

Chris is the snake here, and what an overwritten, straw man of a snake he is. Of course, he's white and works in finance. Of course, he's rigid and humorless. Of course, he's moralistic and judgmental. Of course, he's racist, sexist, homophobic, and size-ist. Of course, he's jealous and paranoid. Of course, he's unrelievedly rude. And, of course, they don't just throw him out on his ass, because then there wouldn't be a play.

But perhaps I'm being unfair to The Qualms. Perhaps it just wants to be an entertaining 90 minutes in the theatre. And it is! It is often quite funny, and many of the non-Chris characters, who are allowed to have good and bad points, are good company. There's the highly effeminate straight African-American man, the fat woman radiating sexual confidence, the pompous but caring anti-monogamy host, the not-too-bright woman who wishes they'd all stop talking and just have sex (I see her point), and so on.

And the production is excellent. Pam MacKinnon's direction is clean and well-paced. The set (Todd Rosenthal) and costumes (Jessica Pabst) are just right. And the cast is top-notch. (They are Kate Arrington, Donna Lynne Champlin, Noah Emmerich, Sarah Goldberg, Julian Leong, Andy Lucien, Chinasa Ogbuagu, John Procaccino, and Jeremy Shamos.)

I guess Norris's ultimate message is that you can't ignore the fact that sex and love are complicated. Or something. I don't really know. But I did have a good time hanging out with the folks at The Qualms.

(second row; member ticket)

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