You can’t put playwright Peter Ackerman in a box. He’s a writer on the FX drama “The Americans,” and he co-wrote the animated “Ice Age” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” movies. He wrote a picture book called “The Lonely Phone Booth.” His first play, “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,” ran off-Broadway in 1999 and is being reinvented as a 10-episode television series scheduled to air in September on DirectTV.
Queen City Theatre Company, which has been on hiatus since last fall, storms Spirit Square with this sassy regional premiere about sex, relationships, expectations and more sex. It involves three couples, three beds and a cast of characters living in an “anything goes” post-sexual revolution New York City.
While in the throes of passion, vociferous Nancy cries out words that stop her boyfriend Ben mid-action. It’s a “did you say what I thought you said?” moment. The ensuing conversation is the catalyst for this farce. It leads to a candid discussion about relationships and sex between six slightly connected people.
This titillating piece of writing works on several levels. On the surface, the dialogue is whip-smart and gut-busting. Dig deeper, and the mysteries of human interaction begin to emerge. What do people want in a relationship? What part does sex play in a relationship? Is just sex enough to qualify as a relationship?
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As Nancy and Ben, Michelle Fleshman and Aaron Mize are excellent sparring partners. A fiery moment of passion morphs into a discussion of values. They trade roles as offended and offender, each attempt at honesty foiled as their real feelings are exposed. It is classic “insert foot in mouth” repartee done well.
In another part of town, Nancy’s best friend Grace is trying to have a carefree affair with rough-and-tumble Gene. Shannon Wightman-Girard’s Grace is a college graduate bored with her social equals and looking for a real man. Lamar Wilson’s Gene, a blue-collar worker with an untraditional job, wants to date an educated woman.
Wilson is excellent. His emotion is in his voice: He is attracted to Grace but overwhelmed by her sexual ferocity. She wants a toy. He wants a smart woman to like him. In a refreshing role switch, she is the predator, he the sensitive guy.
The third couple is Mark the gay therapist and his lover Abramson, played by Alex Gagne and John Xenakis, respectively. They are a physical mismatch, but you’ll have to see the show to know why. Gagne is the most pleasant, chirpy therapist imaginable. A 3 a.m. call for advice is a delightful addition to his evening. And you have to love Abramson for being game to be in the game.
A simple set uses one large bed to create three spaces. Director Michael Harris also designed the costumes that succinctly add depth to each character. The orange in Nancy and Grace’s outfits tie them together, despite their exterior differences.
This raucous vignette packs a punch. Don’t buy a ticket if you are easily offended, and don’t bring the kids.