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Wednesday, September 30,2009

Talk dirty to me

’Things You Shouldn’t Say’ a raunchy riot

by Paul Wozniak


When Woody Allen described sex as, “The most fun you can have without laughing,” he certainly was not describing all theatrical material based on sex. “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,” by Peter Ackerman, is certainly styled as a “British bedroom farce,” but it also manages to transcend the genre somewhat, maintaining all of the hilarity of the quick-paced, simplistic form (minus the doors), but with a psychoanalytical twist.


Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. begins it season with this provocative laugh, with Kristine Thatcher, former artistic director of BoarsHead Theater, at the helm. From screams of sexual summit to ethnic and sexist slurs, the exuberant cast writhes under the covers in faux fornication, wreaking verbal havoc within the Creole Gallery.


The lights rise on the shaking sheets of Ben’s bed, as he and girlfriend Nancy near sexual climax. Just as Ben (Paul Bourne) and Nancy (Abby Murphy) are about to reach the peak of their pleasure, Nancy screams out a particularly deprecating ethnic slur, causing a quick stop in the coitus. While Ben is clearly offended by the remark, which denigrates his features and his bloodline, Nancy exclaims that she merely felt relaxed enough to shout out what her inhibitions normally keep her from saying. But there is more Freudian psychology here than meets the eye, as Nancy leaves in search of an answer.


Meanwhile, Nancy’s friend Grace (Kellie Stonebrook) and mafia hit-man boyfriend Gene (Mark Gmazel) are engaged in their own quarrel, as Gene begins to question his career path while Grace just wants to have sex without a counseling session. When Nancy arrives at Grace’s at 3 a.m., they decide to call Gene’s younger brother Mark (Shane Shanski), a gay therapist, who
is in bed with his elder lover Mr. Abramson (Bill T. Henson). Together,
they call Ben in order to assess whether he is gay (per Nancy’s
suggestion), before reaching the source of turmoil: Nancy’s hidden
fears, which prompted the hurtful comment. Ultimately, a simple moral
is tacked on about the labels people place on each other that separate
us and keep us from enjoying a good shag.


Despite
the back-and-forth bantering of subconscious desires and hidden wants,
“Things You Shouldn’t Say” is not a deep show, but it is extremely
funny, with the best lines going to Gmazel and Henson, who deliver them
with dead-pan sincerity. Bourne functions nicely as the intellectual
straight man with the sincere intention to copulate in a politically
correct manner. Shanski’s character is dubbed little better than a
pop-psychologist, and he plays the part with virtually no frills.


Stonebrook
and Murphy are the only two actors who momentarily become too shrill.
When Stonebrook’s character panics, she contorts her face, a reaction
that is as unflattering as it is unfunny. Similarly, Murphy sometimes
slips into playing for a laugh instead of remaining sincere. But these
moments are only rough patches in a show that is otherwise pretty
polished.


Tim
Fox’s lighting design, Fred Engelgau’s set and Katie Doyle and Michelle
Raymond’s properties all work wonderfully to complete the atmosphere of
three distinct bedrooms that are literally two steps away from each
other. The Creole Gallery’s cramped confines amplify the intensity of
audience laughter, which is wholly and completely genuine.


‘Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight’


By
Peter Ackerman Through Oct. 3 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday Peppermint
Creek Theatre Co., Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., Lansing $15/$10
(517) 927-3016 www.peppermintcreek.org


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