North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre is currently running The Mystery of Love & Sex by Bathsheba Doran, a writer with a hefty resumé. The play, produced by Honest Pint Theatre Company, doesn’t so much solve the mystery as expand its magnitude. It will always be an unsolvable mystery, we suspect. And probably that’s half the fun.
Honest Pint brings that insolubility and fun to the very foreground in this tender, humorous, and surprisingly deep story of the vicissitudes of these intertwined entities. Bathsheba Doran’s characters include a young college couple who have been friends since they were nine and have lived nearby each other. Charlotte (Chloe Oliver) is a “nice Jewish girl” with an itch to expand her experiences in life. Jonny (Chris Helton) is a brilliant African-American, and a devoutly virginal Baptist.
Charlotte’s father, Howard, played by Mark Filiaci, is a successful mystery writer. Her mother, Lucinda, a converted Jew, and a chain smoker, is portrayed by Susannah Hough.
The first scene demonstrates to us that all four of these congenial people are at odds with themselves and, therefore, are at odds with one or more of the others. As it turns out, the odds concern both love and sex in each of the four cases. The stories of their self-discoveries are revealed with wry wit, passion, dignity (and indignity!), courage, and forgiveness.
Director Dana Marks matched roles with performers well, kept a brisk pace and flow, and promoted well-defined characterizations. We wish that she could have overcome the one inadequacy in the script, which was an excess of unnecessary dialogue in the second act, making the show about 15 minutes too long.
The best-written, and performed, role was that of Howard, the father. Mark Filiaci deftly creates a strong Jewish father, with warmth, humor, sturdiness, and incredibly good sense when needed. His diction is clear and authentic.
Chris Helton’s performance is genuine and sincere, and his arc is chiseled in stone as he progresses through Jonny’s journey. And Chloe Oliver weaves a complex but perfectly graspable thread through the frustrations that Charlotte experiences in determining her own way in the minefield of love and sex.
Susannah Hough gives us a woman with mid-life desires that are acted out in unhealthy activities, and Lucinda’s Southern temperament is reflected in her need to keep peace in the family.
Set designer Jen Leiner has added to the permanent two-tier NRACT rampway with a realistic tree of giant proportions (even including a tire swing) centering the stage, and still not dominating any of the scenes, providing remarkable versatility.
This well-rehearsed production continues Honest Pint’s high standard of performance. Honest Pint producer and co-artistic director David Henderson is again to be congratulated for bringing us excellent theater.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 2nd Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article182420751.html and Sept. 29th mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article176145851.html; and Oct. 25th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-mystery-of-love-and-sex/Event?oid=8869234. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 2nd Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/11/bathsheba-dorans-the-mystery-of-love-and-sex-is-a-disappointing-maelstrom-of-characters-and-conflict/.)
Honest Pint Theatre Company presents THE MYSTERY OF LOVE & SEX at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4, 3 p.m. Nov. 5, 8 p.m. Nov. 10 and 11, and 3 p.m. Nov. 12 at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Food Lion Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $17 ($14 students, seniors, teachers, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.nract.org/shows#/tickets/.
SHOW: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/the-mystery-of-love-sex, http://www.nract.org/shows/#/the-mystery-of-love-an-sex/, and https://www.facebook.com/events/131128134205142/.
PRESENTER: http://www.honestpinttheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/honestpinttheatrecompany, https://twitter.com/honestpintthe8r, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9jvpkyjZ1mzZGy1t3BV8mQ.
VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
The Mystery of Love & Sex (2015 dramatic comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/58645/mystery-of-love-sex-the (Samuel French, Inc.) and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/5860 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
Bathsheba Doran (New York City playwright and screenwriter): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/33514 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1096313/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathsheba_Doran (Wikipedia).
Dana Marks (Durham, NC director and managing director of Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern): http://littlegreenpig.com/dana-marks.html (Little Green Pig bio) and https://www.facebook.com/dana.marks.5 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.