"The Joys of Sex" is an amusing but ultimately tame musical revue that seems calculated to move to some bland uptown venue but feels out of place at the Fringe Festival.
By FRANK VIGORITO
(Originally reviewed at the 2002 Fringe Festival.)
Ever since "Urinetown" started its run to Broadway at the New York International Fringe Festival a few years ago in 1999, writers and directors with dreams of the Great White Way have been flocking to this ever-growing "alternative" theater, dance and performance-art festival in Downtown Manhattan. It's no surprise then that many of the offerings are improving on production values and looking more and more like Broadway auditions than ever before. "The Joys of Sex: A Naughty Musical Revue," with lyrics by Melissa Levis and music by David Weinstein, is one such show, maybe one of the best candidates for a Fringe launch into the future, but also a disappointment coming from a festival that has prided itself on fresh, new art.
Picking up where Woody Allen left off in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex . . . " 30 years ago, "The Joys of Sex" sets to music how knee-slappingly funny sex can be, minus the neuroses. Song and dance numbers about a woman's inability to orgasm ("'O' No"), about internet cybersex ("Intercourse on the Internet"), and foot fetishes tantalize and tease with very tasteful yet frank talk about all the "naughty" and natural fun adults have in bed. The ensemble cast of four, especially Stephanie Kurtzuba as Stephs et al., are excellent and their presence on stage actually makes singing with a 14-inch dildo look easy. A number between the despairing orgasmless Stephs and her not-dead-yet grandma ("In the Parlor Be a Lady") is particularly amusing. Only two numbers of the show seem out of place, "I Need it Bad," which not only has the worst rap on 14th Street, but really sounds like a runner-up for the extremely catchy show theme "The Joys of Sex." The other, "The Great Outdoors," is a number that belabors an already boring and predictable subplot (who needs plot in a revue, anyhow?) about a commitment-phobic couple feeling bored about their sex lives.|
Ultimately, while enjoyable, there's a sense of holding back; the cuteness is funny at first, but about halfway through, it becomes too much cute and not enough edge. The way the older ladies in the audience were howling with laughter (and then giggling about it) made me feel like the show had been caught in a world somewhere between "Sex In The City" and Chippendales. The content of the play doesn't come close the already chastity-belted sex-talk of the HBO show, nor does the floor show offer up much in the way of prurience. To say "The Joys of Sex" isn't a good musical would be wrong it's a terrific mainstream show but in the context of the Fringe, isn't that a disappointment? It certainly does seem odd that the show doesn't ever delve into the world of gay sex. Its one brief hint of lesbian sex is entirely within the context of a hetero male fantasy a husband asks his wife to perform a threesome with his old flame ("The 3-Way"). That the dangers of sex aren't unearthed is probably a wise choice in creating a musical comedy, but by sidestepping alternatives to heterosexual sex, "The Joys of Sex" comes across as a strictly commercial product made for a core mom-and-pop audience of tourists to the New Times Square and regional theaters across America. Where's the rawness? The cheek? The promised fresh?
"The Joys of Sex" has a future. If you want to see it before it's the next big thing, see it this week and next week at the Fringe, or else wait until it gets to Broadway or the Upper East Side! and take your mom or your grandparents. They'll love it. As for your hipster downtown friends, this might be the show that gets them talking about "the way the Fringe used to be."
|AUGUST 12, 2002|
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