Here’s what you can say about Heart & Dagger’s cheeky little festival playing through June 14th called SEXFEST II. (Yes, Virginia, this is the second year for the frisky festival.) It’s a little daring, mildly shocking, often inventive, downright hilarious and a few of the plays have something serious to say. If Saturday Night Live didn’t have network censors to rein them in, they might be writing SEXFEST.
Let’s start with the thought provoking stuff (which by the by is all penned by women!). Sexual inequality is tackled by Cassie M. Seinuk in “P is for…” You know it’s for “porn” from the get-go, when a woman comes home early from work and catches her boyfriend watching and, well, you know what he was doing. Seinuk poses these questions: If heterosexual men watch lesbian porn for inspiration, then do straight women get turned on by gay porn? And if not, why not... and if it’s acceptable for men to watch porn, why not for women?
Jessica Andrewartha puts a feminist twist on S&M in “Star Wars-The New Grope” when her princess Leia takes full charge of her date and instructs him on how to “objectify” her properly. Lyralen Kaye’s “Bathroom Games” is a touching cautionary tale in which an older, wiser man tries to warn a youth about the pitfalls of hanging around bathrooms.
Debra Weiss makes “ONE” work surprisingly well when two women end a relationship speaking only one word at a time, when “cheat” inevitably leads to “break.” It’s amazing how much emotion they muster with one word. Speaking of choosing the right word, Kilian Melloy’s “Teodoro” is a sweet paean to the love note and how trite a declaration of affection can sound on paper.
Michael Cox’s spoof of heterosexual machismo gets lots of laughs when two losers try to impress by bragging about their sexual prowess. Mikey DeLoreto’s smart S&M tale begins with a charming pantomime (about what to wear when you go out looking for someone to “play with”) and ends with quite a clever twist.
David Miller’s provocative “CRISCO” serves up dinner as a metaphor for commitment and Rick Park’s naughty birthday romp is interrupted by a parade of well wishers the birthday boy wishes would go away. John J. King goes pun wild with a kinky mythological re-set of Pandora’s Box. Kendall Aiguier sends up online dating with a slew of applicants from hell. And there are still more skits on the bill.
Some of the actors direct. Some of the directors write. (Full Disclosure: A couple of critics have become writers for the festival and one directs, too): Heat & Dagger have assembled a talented crew. Everyone pitches in and there isn’t a clunker in the bunch. Some are stranger than others, mind you and the eroticism is mostly in the dialogue.
Acting standouts: Joey Pelletier as the guy who wants more than a hook up: He wants dinner and a relationship. Adam Lauver as the English teacher who decides to help a clueless kid (David DiRocco). Alissa Cordeiro and Bridgette Hayes as mythological sirens. Best of all is Cameron Cronin strutting to “Its Raining Men.”