THE BASICS: MEDIOCRE HETEROSEXUAL SEX by Madison Wetzel, premier, directed by Mia LaMarco, presented by Buffalo United Artists (BUA) starring Stefanie Warnick, Blaise Mercedes, Ben Caldwell, Sean Patrick Ryan, and Katie Gaisser. March 17 – April 8, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm at the Compass Performing Arts Center located at 545 Elmwood Ave. (the old TheaterLoft). Tickets are available at: www.mediocreheterosexualsex.bpt.me | Note: Walk-Up Purchases at the Door are CASH ONLY
ALSO NOTE: No One Under 18 Years Old Admitted – Content Warning: Nudity and Simulated Sex
RUNTIME: 90 minutes, no intermission
THUMBNAIL SKETCH (freely adapted from the producer’s blurb): Four hours after her girlfriend Hannah (Katie Gaisser) dumps her, Erin (Stefanie Warnick), hurt and self-pitying and not happy with herself or her life, switches her Tinder setting to dudes. She quickly meets her neighbor Aaron (Ben Caldwell), who is straight, conveniently nearby, and only too happy not only to get laid but also to indulge her masochistic fantasies. It seems as if both are DTF, but are things ever just that simple? To help navigate and translate her deeply ambivalent first heterosexual experience, Erin seeks the advice of the only straight people she knows, Violet (Blaise Mercedes) and Jeremy (Sean Patrick Ryan), a couple in a comfortable long-term Dominant/submissive relationship. The show is billed as “A vexed exploration of gender, sex, power, and kink.”
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: This is what live theater is supposed to be like. It’s a solid play with interesting character motivations presented with a deft balance between action, humor, and thoughtful dialog. Professionally acted with clear direction and seamless scene changes as the lead character “Erin” simply walks from one part of the set to another. And it passes my La-Z-Boy test where I ask “Better, worse, or the same as Netflix?” In other words, was the live theater experience worth the trip? Yes, it was. Good job, all.
And when I say “all” I definitely include Set Designer Gina Boccolucci who came up with a way to keep things moving in a play that could have, but didn’t, bog down in dialogue. It IS an introspective play that touches on many unanswerable questions about relationships, but, by God, it makes you think. And even better, there’s a lot of humor as Erin explores “the switch.”
As clever as the set were the costumes designed by Kay Johnson assisted by Intimacy Director Nicolette Navarro. Stage Management by Ryan Wilkie was crisp and let’s not forget Assistant Stage Manager/Prop Master Callie Keavey who had to keep track of all those adult “toys.”
The acting was simply first-rate. Several scenes could have been awkward, but the ensemble members seemed so comfortable with one another, that the entire show felt like a visit with old friends. Truly remarkable.
Now, I must admit, it wasn’t what I was expecting from BUA (Buffalo United Artists) which I had been associating with plays about gay (as in male homosexual) life, plays such as THE BOYS UPSTAIRS, AFTERGLOW, and one man shows such as THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY or BRIGHT COLORS AND BOLD PATTERNS. Obviously, I had forgotten that the first letter in LGTBQ+ is for Lesbian.
Having said that, while the lead character, Erin, is a lesbian who was, until the play starts, in a long-term relationship with a girlfriend, she is more confused about what she needs for sexual fulfillment than she is confused about her identity. Yes, she is “bi-curious” but it seems that she’s curious about a lot of things. And that’s one of the real reasons Hannah broke up with Erin, because she’s never satisfied. Hanna wants vanilla lesbian sex and Erin thinks that maybe she needs to add fantasy, role play, and a little BDSM to the mix. So, at the end of the day, or play, I found this to be more about the complications of sex in general, and a good case for couples therapy, and less about any specific LGBTQ+ identification.
Still, it’s wonderful that LGBTQ+ issues are being represented more and more. If you Google “How many Americans identify as LGBTQ+” you’ll find challenges to the old Kinsey estimate of 10% which now range from 4% to a 2022 Gallup report of 7.2%. But, get this, when Gallup broke that down by generations, the share of Gen Z adults (born 1997 to 2004) who identify as LGBTQ+ was 19.7%. So, as these 19 to 26-year-olds continue to write, produce, and direct, we should be seeing a lot more plays like MEDIOCRE HETEROSEXUAL SEX. And that’s a good thing.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!