Enjoy New Love in 4Play: Sex in a Series
After successful runs in New York and Chicago, trip.’s 4Play: Sex in a Series is billed as “the not-so-simple story of boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl, and all the little things that can ruin a perfectly good dinner party.” Beginning with a solo of Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” sung beautifully by Marian Frizelle, 4Play intertwines three stories of budding romance. Focusing on sweet, new love, 4Play is not as risqué as the title would have you believe, playing out more like a PG-13 romantic comedy.
Boy Meets Girl
4Play is a very ensemble-driven show, but the couple I would most associate with being the “main” one is played by Graham Brown (also the writer/director) and Eve Danzeisen. A divorced director (Brown), inspired by tequila (embodied by Christi Pedigo) and egged on by his ego (hilariously brought to life by Kaitlin Large), looks to have a rebound and finds himself at a gay club. Wanting to explore his sexuality, he meets and fools around (but doesn’t have sex) with a man for the night. The following day, Brown meets Danzeisen when she auditions for his new play. Smitten immediately, Brown casts her and molds his script around the relationship he wants to have with her. While rehearsing for this play-within-a-play, Danzeisen starts to fall for Brown in return. The actors did a good job, but I didn’t fully buy this relationship, especially toward the end when Danzeisen claims to love Brown in one scene before leaving him for Los Angeles in the next.
Girl Meets Girl
A perky, naïve Zoë Simpson Dean (playing Danzeisen’s roommate) welcomes a cool Ariana Anderson (in a role that was practically meant for her) as their new, third roommate. Dean is fascinated by Anderson when she comes out to Dean as being a lesbian. Filled with liquid courage, Dean expresses her interest in Anderson one night while out at a dance club. Anderson, cautious of being an “experiment,” doesn’t want to rush into things, but also finds that she reciprocates Dean’s feelings. Trouble brews when Danzeisen’s feisty bisexual sister (firecracker Bevin Bru) comes to visit and takes a shine to Anderson. Dean and Anderson are so real and perfect in their roles, both vulnerable and strong in the awkwardness that is navigating new love – and for Dean, sexuality.
Boy Meets Boy
By far, my favorite couple in 4Play involved Dustyn Gulledge and Cameron J. Oro. Gulledge, playing Brown’s best friend, starts dating a very intelligent Oro and finds himself questioning his own worth. Oro never once alludes to thinking Gulledge is any less than, even teaching him about the complexities of baseball while Gulledge schools him on Star Trek trivia. The banter and excitement between these two when one first says “I love you” was so cute and fun that it made me want to be newly-in-love again. But complications arise during a dinner party involving all three couples. During a game of “I’ve Never,” insecurities and secrets come out that were never meant to see the light of day. The man Brown fooled around with on his opening bender: Oro, before he met Gulledge.
4Play doesn’t break new ground in the romantic-comedy genre (an emotional rollercoaster of voicemails, for example), but it was performed in an interesting way. The audience was seated at a handful of tall bar tables or around the perimeter of the mostly open room. The actors weaved through the crowd to establish different locations in lieu of having sets. Without the use of traditional “lights-out” scene changes, the actors bounced off one another to pick up a new scene, making for some fun and interesting transitions. Occasionally, the actors’ wandering led to an obstructed view or having to ping-pong from one side of the space to the other.
Despite some one-note characters or cliché events, the acting was solid – I especially found the secondary stories very sweet and real. Since the characters didn’t have names within the show, maybe they are supposed to be generic, and perhaps more universally relatable. The audience can project themselves onto the characters, identifying with them and bringing more meaning to the stories.
My biggest complaint was the ending. (SPOILERS) When it looked like Brown was going to lose the girl, he literally has his ego change the script to come out the “winner,” ditching Danzeisen instead of the other way around. It left me frustrated because the writer/director was manipulating Danzeisen, not giving her character a voice (or choice) of her own. However, because of the play-within-a-play format and the multiple endings, I suppose the audience can choose which they’d prefer. After this about-face, 4Play transitioned somewhat clumsily into a reprise of “Just One of Those Things,” now sung by the entire cast.
Overall, 4Play: Sex in a Series was a cute, sometimes poignant, piece about a variety of new relationships. Because of the fast pacing, I was fully engaged with the show and never bored, rooting for these flawed characters to find the love they so desperately wanted.
4Play: Sex in a Series runs through March 17. Get tickets here.