Sexual Perversity In Chicago

TABATHA LEGGETT squirms and laughs her way through a play which could be justifiably (for once) described as a ‘romp’. But isn’t.

ADC theatre Atonia Eklund lucie shorthouse Mamet Max Upton Sex Sexual Perversity in Cichago Simon Haines

ADC Theatre, 11-15th May, 11pm, £4-6

Directed by Ben Kavanagh


Sexual Perversity in Chicago charts a summer romance between office worker Danny and commercial illustrator Deborah, which is ultimately destroyed by a combination of their social inadequacies and their jealous, insecure friends. It is a play about exciting sexual fantasies and mundane sexual realities, which is simultaneously funny and subtly thought-provoking.

In many ways this is an actor’s play: it doesn’t provide the audience with anyone to root for, and asks for laughs after almost every line. Luckily, the cast were more than competent, and their performance was thoroughly enjoyable. A simple set divided into four distinct areas, and loud music between scenes meant that the play never lost pace; and the actors retained energy and focus throughout.

Simon Haines stole the show as Bernie, a man whose previous sexual exploits allegedly rival Hugh Hefner’s, but who fails to pick up girls in bars. Haines’ comic timing is impeccable, and his hyper-masculine, testosterone-fuelled scenes with Danny (Max Upton) were genuinely hilarious.

Upton provided the perfect contrast to Haines, playing the role of the socially awkward Danny. It was Danny who the audience felt most attached to, and who accentuated the ways in which people unintentionally and uncontrollably distance themselves from one another. His post-sex bedroom scene with Deborah was just the right level of cringe – not too horrible to watch, but awkward enough to make the audience squirm just a little.

Sadly, the girls were weaker than the boys in this performance. In the first half, their characters were too similar, and whilst Antonia Eklund grew into her role as the free-spirited and carefree Deborah naturally, it was difficult to empathise with her after the demise of her relationship, as her character was quickly discarded.

Equally, Lucie Shorthouse’s Joan was just a bit too safe. I wanted there to be an underlying tension between her and Deborah, but unfortunately there wasn’t. She played ‘pissed off’ convincingly at first, but soon descended into a generic angry woman. Her lesbian tendencies were alluded to, but not quite explored fully.

That said, this was still an excellent play. Dialogue was delivered quickly and clearly, which suited the episodic nature of this play entirely. True to Mamet’s style, watching this play felt like eavesdropping on strangers rather than watching a rehearsed play; albeit rather unusual strangers who engage in extremely frank and polished conversation.

Sexual Perversity in Chicago is a play which leaves much unanswered. Why is Joan quite so hostile towards her best friend’s new relationship? Why does the relationship fail? And, why is it that we always push people away as soon as they get too close to us?

In many ways, this is a sad comedy. But, when all was said and done, all friendships remained in tact. All together now: awwwh.