Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Mystery of Love & Sex
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Nether and All the Way

Jeff Still, Shayna Blass, Xavier Scott Evans, and Emily Townley
Photo by Margot Schulman
The Mystery of Love & Sex, Bathsheba Doran's play now in the MAX Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is an amiable if not revelatory examination of romantic ideals and parental expectations.

Charlotte (Shayna Blass) and Jonny (Xavier Scott Evans) have been friends since childhood and everyone thinks they'll get married eventually. The audience first sees them in Charlotte's dorm room (the initial component of James Kronzer's set, intricately detailed and full of surprises), where they serve dinner to Charlotte's sometimes combative parents: Howard (Jeff Still), New York Jewish and a popular mystery writer, and Lucinda (Emily Townley), daughter of a wealthy Southern family.

Of course, life is never as predictable as one might hope. Charlotte, white and Jewish, wants sex while Jonny, African-American and a devout Christian, is determined to wait for marriage. Both of them have feelings they don't feel comfortable sharing, leading to some bad behavior, betrayal of trust, and finding out who they really are and what they want.

While Doran's play is clever and often insightful, the experience is more pleasant than fully satisfying. Director Stella Powell-Jones keeps the action moving as the characters drink, act out, fight, and try to make sense of each other and themselves.

With her open face and expressive features, Blass ably conveys Charlotte's confusion as she realizes that love isn't always what a person expects, while Evans shows Jonny's more restrained emotions and underlying resolve. Still and Townley score in the broader comedic roles, respectively demonstrating bluster and hard-bitten gentility.

As with Road Show, the previous production in the MAX, this production is staged with the audience on three sides. Jesse Belsky's naturalistic lighting and Asta Bennie Hostetter's lived-in-looking costumes add to the feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Signature Theatre
The Mystery of Love & Sex
April 5th - May 8th
By Bathsheba Doran
Charlotte: Shayna Blass
Jonny: Xavier Scott Evans
Lucinda: Emily Townley
Howard: Jeff Still
Howard's Father: David A. Schmidt
Directed by Stella Powell-Jones
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA
Ticket information: 703-820-9771 or

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