By Leasharn Hopkins
It has been many years since I’ve ventured to Trustus Theatre for a theatrical production especially since the addition of the Cohn Side Door Theatre.
The Side Door Theatre is a very small space (compared to Trustus Mainstage) however this was an excellent choice for the play. The setting added a certain intimacy to the performance. Rather than just watching the play the room made me feel as though I was actually part of the play.
Prior to attending the show, I viewed the online advertisement trailer which lead me to believe I was going to see a very risqué/avante garde play (reminiscent of Trustus’ Late Night Productions).
I was pleasantly surprised that the play was not as risqué or avante garde as the trailer led me to believe. The opening scene of Sex on Sunday (written by Chisa Hutchinson) was an “eye opener” to say the least, about S&M. I started thinking am I watching a stage version of Fifty Shades of Gray?
Ms. Hutchinson added a few more components which made this play more in-depth (than the movie). The play has the predictable story of the lead character trying to balance her sexually deviant lifestyle with a run-of-the-mill oneHowever, the addition of Laila (lead character) developing a relationship and sisterly friendship with her neighbor and a few other women really added a nice element to the story. The playwright did a wonderful job of intertwining the topic of deviant sexual behavior with the mask of living a more typical life inclusive of friends and building healthy relationships.
The only low points were a few scenes that were too short (30 seconds to a minute long). Hutchinson could have developed the scenes a little more; combined those super short scenes with another scene; or deleted them altogether. The saving grace for those fragmented scenes was the director’s choice of music. The music not only aided in filling in those very short scenes but also compensated for the use of actors changing sets between scenes. The musical interludes took the viewers’ minds off of waiting for the next scene or knowing there was a set change. There was an audience member so caught up in the music that she started singing along with a few of the songs. This added another level to the play.
Another great compliment to Ms. Hutchinson’s script was the flawless casting of the ensemble cast. Devin Anderson (Laila) completely committed to her role as the controversial dominatrix. Her performance wasn’t one dimensional. Ms. Anderson added subtle complexities and layers to her character trying to live two lives—the normal Laila and the dominatrix Laila. I found myself hoping she would choose the normal life. For an actress to have me drawn into her performance and have me rooting for a positive outcome speaks volume for the director and actor.
Of notable mention was Arischa Frierson’s portrayal as Odette, the “perfect” noisy neighbor. Although she played the character over the top, her portrayal was spot on and added the comedic relief needed for a play that could have gone very dark. Ms. Frierson had the perfect balance of being larger than life in her portrayal but brilliantly brought out her character’s subtext which made us understand why she had a larger than life personality. It was a mechanism to mask the pain of being in an unhappy marriage.
To round out this ensemble cast, Josh Kern, Jon McClinton, Mahogany Collins, and Felicia Myers did a wonderful job of committing to their characters and making viewers engaged and interested in the lives of Ms. Hutchinson’s characters. Eric Bultman (Director of Sex on Sunday) did a fantastic job of guiding the actors in identifying and developing the subtext that was prevalent throughout the play.
Sex on Sunday runs 80 minutes with no intermission. However, the storyline; the actors; and the music make you forget a need for an intermission and leave you looking for more from the story and cast.
I would highly recommend this play for an adult only summer outing. This show would be a perfect girl’s night out or friends looking for something different to do.
Sex on Sunday runs from July 7- July 15 at Trustus Theatre Cohn side Door Theatre.
Leasharn M. Hopkins is the author of more than 30 full-length plays and eight screenplays. Her play, To Touch God’s Hands, was performed across the U.S. In 2016, Hopkins wrote, directed, and produced her first short film, A Mother’s Plea which will be screened in August 2017 at the National Black Theatre Film Festival. She is the SC Arts Commission 2018 Screenwriting Fellow.