Christopher Durang's comedy Sex and Longing opened Oct. 10 at the Cort Theatre on Broadway. Here is a sampling of reviews from members of Playbill On-Line.
In 1987, Durang's LAUGHING WILD debuted. It was wild and and made you laugh. Almost a decade later, in 1996, Durang's SEX & LONGING opened, and all it made me do was long for LAUGHING WILD.
The cast tries. Sigourney Weaver, probably the worst written character in the play, dives into her part fully, for which she must be praised. Too bad the part is so shallow, it only causes Weaver to get hurt. She comes across as bad, especially in the plays second and third acts, but it isn't her fault. That balm must be put on Durang, and the director. The rest of the cast comes along for the ride too. Dana Ivey reads every line exactly the way it should be read, to the point where you know she just delivered a joke, but you couldn't really tell otherwise.
Durang, who is a great satirist, somehow missed the boat with this one. What is funny about ending act one with the heroine having her arm muscles sliced during an attempted rape? Or ending act two with her being wheeled off to be raped by a priest? How can you expect your lead character to be able to do much, when she is confined to a wheelchair because her arm muscles are still healing?
And yet, the show is fascinating watch at times. The first act is humorous, if not outright funny, and in the third act, Jesus enters, and for a few moments, it seems as if Durang is in the building. Sadly, it is one small moment. the entire second act is a throwaway, with the exception of Weaver's final monologue, which, while totally off tone from the rest of the play, somehow is riveting, and the same for the final moments of the third act, when Weaver's character dies, and her final metting with her best friend. Certainly some of the most interesting parts of the play. Alas, they weren't funny, and didn't keep with the tone of the play.
From D69mann (D69mann@aol.com) West Hollywood, CA:
I don't get to New York as often as I would like and to Broadway even less, so when I get the opportunity to spend some time at the theatre I hope I will not be disappointed. Alas, all the Christian caricatures and nonsensical nymphomaniacs in the world could not put all the pieces of Sex and Longing back together again. The play is thematically disjointed and might best be enjoyed as a series of one-act plays, but even that is doubtful.
There are moments, however, that do stand apart from the whole, especially when Dana Ivey appears on stage. Miss Ivey truly makes the two and a half hour fait desaccompli a bit less so by her stereotypical but grand incarnation of middle-class Christian zealotry. She is wonderfully comical. Sigourney Weaver, to her credit, has a moment or two of believable characterization, especially with her episodes of psychotic suppression. But, for the most part, her character is so unbelievably ridiculous that we just don't care about her. As one older woman moaned to her companion upon leaving the theatre, "why would such a gifted actress waste her time on such a thing?" And why, indeed, would any of us? Perhaps we would not be so disappointed by such a collection of discombobulated acts and characters were it an Off-Off-Broadway production. But it's not, and we are.
From Harry Matthews (email@example.com):
After a decade's absence from the New York stage, Christopher Durang has written a brilliant one-act comedy of manners. Alas, he has chosen to present it as the 2nd of 3 acts in a production that surrounds it with two acts of facile satire and bleakly mechanical political theatre. A bouquet of brilliant performances (especially from Dana Ivey and Sigourney Weaver), dazzling sets (John Arnone), and canny direction Garland Wright) make sure that the 3-hour production is never boring, though it is also never satisfactory.
Wright, Weaver, and Durang were buddies back at Yale Drama School, so nostalgia may have overridden their sense of judgement. As student production, or an Off-Off-Broadway workshop, the play might be seen as "promising." As a full-fledged Broadway production it is, at best, out of place.
Durang's latest is going to be trashed the very minute it opens, but amidst this mess is a brilliant performance by Dana Ivey and several wonderful, fresh moments. The play's almost total lack of real structure is almost as damaging as the impossible character of Lulu (though Sigourney Weaver is very game). Since I come from a background chock full of fundamentalist Christians, the humor rings very true and very hard in many places, and sadly, not altogether too far-fetched either. Durang really tries for something new here, and I respect that but also realize that the work as a whole is a failure. A re-incarnation of some of this material is truly in order.
I am a huge Christopher Durang fan. His absurd brilliance often works wonders exploring very real situations. Unfortunately, sometimes he gets a little lost. SEX AND LONGING is trully a terrible play, or should I say 3 terrible plays. It is presented in three acts, and with each new one, re-invents itself in some idiotic escape from the stupidity of the previous act. Durang is lucky to have such a huge talent in Sigourney Weaver, who actually manages to make a great deal of this believable and even stirring. The rest of the cast is pretty weak, essentially because their characters are either under or over written - essentially they are playing unplayable roles, especially the part of Justin and the senator. These are characters who actually make no sense at all.
Better luck next time, Chris!
Christopher Durang's new play, "Sex And Longing," is a long, three act, undisciplined, mess. I count myself among the liberal Democrats of the world, but "Sex and Longing" is the equivalent of the worst of us . . . My last comment might be considered a rude . . . cheap sentiment but it is Shakespearean compared to what Mr. Durang is currently putting forth on the Cort's stage. A great fan of his, I stand disappointed.
Alas, just about everyone else's opinion shown to date is accurate. There are funny bits and pieces, but every effective moment is undercut almost immediately. The real mystery is why this was producted at all; perhaps Lincoln Center felt it couldn't turn down Durang+Weaver, but isn't that what producers are for? A pity.
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