nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
July 21, 2011
Logic vs. emotion has always ruled relationships and the battle of the sexes. Stereotypically, men are usually seen as logical and women seen as emotional. Even at the inception of a relationship, the people who we choose to like or love are not always logical choices. Sometimes we just don't know why we like who we like. But could there be a way to reduce love to a logical level? Could we possibly eliminate the emotional elements to desiring someone so we can always make the "smart decision"? That's a possibility that Sex Curve, Merridith Allen's new play in the Midtown International Theatre Festival, dabbles in.
Sex Curve centers on Marissa, a biochemist who has just gone through a bad breakup. She's moved in with her friend Robyn, who writes sex advice books, and their gay go-go dancer friend, Lucas. Fed up with being screwed over by men time and time again, she decides to concoct a formula that neutralizes oxytosin, which is apparently the hormone in women that causes the feeling of love and attachment after sleeping with someone. She wants to take the emotion out of sex and love so she can find the "right man," according to her own more scientific method (usually a list of pros and cons).
She "experiments," sleeping around with a bunch of guys to see if she's managed to neutralize the feeling. She even gets her roommates in on the experiment with their partners. But she realizes it's working too well and she's not even enjoying sex anymore—until she finds that the only person she has feelings for is Josh, the geeky guy down the hall who has relentlessly pursued her to no avail since she moved in. As she starts falling in love with the most unlikely person, it seems her experiment has failed; begging the question: can we really control love with science or is it just too strong?
While the show poses an interesting question—science vs. love—Allen's script never quite achieves high enough stakes to make it engaging. At the center of this problem are the two unlikely lovers. Marissa and Josh never quite earn their "love." He always comes across as extremely forward and socially awkward, whereas she always seems kind of creeped out by him (and rightfully so), until one moment, all of a sudden, she realizes she's in love with him. However, there's just never a spark or a moment in the play between Marissa and Josh for their love to make sense. Bethany Clein and Matt Alford have good presences on stage and some nice moments but both seem slightly miscast. Clein, as Marissa, is a little too polished and attractive to come off as a frumpy, lovelorn biochemist who never changes her "Lab Rat" t-shirt and can't hold down a man. A little too much coolness also seeps out of Alford's Josh, and it feels like the costuming choices try a little too hard to scream "geek."
The characters of Robyn and Lucas are at times entertaining, but always in the seemingly most stereotypical manner (Robyn as the sassy black woman, and Lucas as the flamingly gay guy). Both actors play their roles extremely well (Neville Braithwaite, as Lucas, is a hilarious bundle of chaos and energy), but Lucas is always just a little too on fire to seem like a real person (he's even so gay apparently that at one point he sends a raging heterosexual man running off in hysterics, just by hitting on him). Robyn isn't ever given any real emotional arc, so she often just seems to be there for no other purpose than to make feisty comments.
It seems like Love Curve has found a worthwhile premise to work with, it just never seems as interesting as it should be. Perhaps, with more development of Lucas and Robyn into living-breathing characters—with a beginning and end—and building the love of Marissa and Josh on a more solid foundation, it can achieve that. But as it is, even with solid performances across the board by the cast, Love Curve seems a bit unfinished and rushed, just like the experiment it chronicles.