by Ron Richardson
“How many actors does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb and another to say, ‘I could have done it better.'”
It’s an old joke and one you’ve likely heard. But, in the off chance you haven’t, I thought I’d share it for context and to help you understand that when this actor says a show it good, it’s good. And that is just the case for Lust & Marriage, A solo show about monogamy, polyamory, and finding your soul (mates) by Eleanor O’Brien and running at Theatre Off Jackson through June 14th.
O’Brien tells the story of her developing sexuality starting with herself as a young child experimenting with sensations all the way through her as an experienced woman visiting Burning Man and finding a life partner among the one night stands. It just turns out that said life partner isn’t “wired for monogamy,” and so O’Brien’s development continues. She uses hypothetical letters written to, and answers from, Seattle’s own Dan Savage to frame the events of her sexual life and to serve both as her guiding light and mentor that she grows beyond as she finds herself among the dust, orgasms, and jealousy of her sexual/life journey.
The stories do involve adult situations and the very rare F-bomb is dropped but it is all done through the filter of honest exploration and character and is never bothersome to anyone who can talk about birth control without being embarrassed. And O’Brien manages to switch characters with skill and grace. Her vocal work impressively identifies exactly who is talking at any given moment. She takes on the persona of various boyfriends and lovers and the audience is never confused and always right there with her.
Technically she uses music as a bridge between scenes, an effort that was slightly undermined by the overly high volume levels, in some cases. Aware of the issue as she performed O’Brien managed to project over the sound when she needed to but the effort was noticeable to folk with stage experience, even if I’d think most audience members didn’t mark those moments.
As the subtitle says O’Brien discussed non-monogamy with the knowledge of someone who has lived it and the humor of someone who hasn’t take it so seriously as to learn nothing while doing so. Poly folk in the audience will find any number of humorous lines just for them and wince at the common stories of mistakes most all of us have made. As O’Brien discovers, supports, and undermines her own limitations we are all taken along for the journey and it’s a very enjoyable ride.
Well written, well acted, and well meaning Lust & Marriage is a fine way to spend an evening with a very fine actress who’s willing to share the wisdom her life journey has given her. Get yourself down to Theatre Off Jackson and take advantage of it while you can. Monogamous, poly, or something in between there is something for everyone in this night of thoughtful, fun, sexy, theatre.
Ron Richardson is an actor, writer and director based in Seattle, Washington. His new web series pilot is Norm Owensen, Medieval Mercenary, tales of a modern-day SCA fighter who’s down on his luck.