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    Lovebird with a Mirror

    Passion play

    In a bid to end her sexual drought, a woman sends a form letter to all her former crushes offering herself to each one for a night, in the very sexy and subtly insightful "Lovebird with a Mirror."


    "To every boy in every dark bar in the world, catch my eye," says our heroine. "Because I want to fuck you. I mean it."

    Company: Curious Noise.
    Written and directed by: Sarah Gancher.
    Cast: Courtney Reynolds, Elizabeth Bowman, Vennila Kain, Sasha Cuccinello, Jennifer Keister, Garth Silberstein, Bryan Brown, Randy Spence, Patricia Beyhaut.

    Related links: Official site
    424 Broadway
    424 Broadway (at Canal), 4th floor
    Jan. 30 - Feb. 15, 2003

    The woman, C, has decided to end her years-long dry spell with a little ruse, a letter to everyone she ever had a crush on, a missed opportunity with, an unresolved longing for. "Please be advised that I have become engaged and will be married in a month. Now is your last chance," she tells each of them, with a date, time and address at which, if they show up, they are entitled to a one-time-only, no-strings-attached night of unapologetic carnality.

    Suppose you received such a letter — would you go? Well, men being what we are, almost all of them do. Each encounter turns out a little bit different, both because C's attitude gradually evolves and because her quarry all come in with different expectations. Some want to get right to it in a sudden wanton onslaught, some try to order her around, one just comes to curse her out, and one (the most passionate, I thought) insists on falling in love if only for the one night.

    It's almost easiest to describe "Lovebird with a Mirror" by telling what it is not. It isn't judgmental and it isn't a light "Sex in the City"-style romp either. It is smart without being didactic, erotic without being trashy, and tasteful without being timid. It is very funny in spots, but its humor is often based on uncertainty and ambiguity, never on comedy cliches like sexual dysfunction and misunderstandings between the sexes. These men and women are not from Mars and Venus, they're unabashedly from Eros, at least on a given night.

    Could you imagine pulling a crazy stunt like the one in the play, and would you see it through? Most likely something stops you, and yet some carefully walled-off, animalistic corner of your psyche would probably surrender to it eagerly.  

    The play never comes out and says what it wants you to know about its subject — sex is like this, love is like that, women are so this, men are so that. It lets you read the characters, absorb their words and moods, and relate it all to your own experience. Courtney Reynolds is very strong as C, her character sometimes inhibited and unsure but, once she feels a lover's touch, able to abandon herself to the flesh. Her subconscious drives are given theatrical life by two other actresses, Elizabeth Bowman and Vennila Kain, who at moments of overwhelming desire press in on her from both sides, the three overlapping bodies and intertwined voices undulating in waves of lust, sensuality and ecstasy that wash over the character and spill out into the audience.

    The play is, in many respects, not about the woman C but about you. How much of yourself can you see in her, her lovers and her friends? Undoubtedly you've had a few near misses with love, or lust, and perhaps some of the ones who got away still cross your mind — could you imagine pulling a crazy stunt like the one in the play, and would you see it through? Most likely something stops you, and yet some carefully walled-off, animalistic corner of your psyche would probably surrender to it eagerly.

    So what does a person get from letting go in this way? Closure? A taste of what might have been? A little temporary human contact? A quick physical jolt? In one memorable scene, the man of the moment disappears from the tryst, leaving C and her two alter egos crying out with passion for themselves. Perhaps, the play hints, the joy of sex is nothing but an exercise in solipsism in which the other person is merely a convenient vehicle. Maybe this is what's intended by the title.

    Control, uncertainty, anticipation, desire, delirium, sometimes contentment, sometimes regret — C strikes all these notes, and they're the same ones that all of us experience in our less extreme lives, which is why the play reflects many of our own emotions. Like her, we don't think about them consciously in the moment, but we carry them inside us long after the moment is over.

    Writer-director Sarah Gancher finds many uncompromising but subtle ways to explore this subject, producing a play that's intelligent, very sexy and emphatically female-focused. The actors — young and attractive but not sexpots as such — also deserve credit for bold performances under conditions that leave every one of them a little bit exposed. (It looked as if one actor's parents were squeezed into the second row of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, and my companion remarked that if she were an actress in the show she might have told her parents to skip this one.) It's a play you can see for deep and shallow reasons at the same time. It massages your subconscious, gives you a playful poke in the libido and leaves you with something to think about, maybe some insight into yourself.

    FEBRUARY 10, 2003

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