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San Francisco by Richard Connema

The Sex Habits of American Women
is Gentle Parody

Also see Richard's review of Son of Drakula

The Magic Theatre, under the new artistic director Chris Smith, is presenting Julie Marie Myatt's The Sex Habits of American Women, a gentle parody on the American woman. This is the world premiere of a very unusual comedy that features almost stilted language that sound like the Universal Studios soap operas of the 1950s.

Sex Habits
Frances Lee McCain, Deborah Fink and Jarion Monroe
Sex Habits opens up in 1950 in the living and dining room of Dr. Fritz Tittels (Jarion Monroe), a respected and noted psychoanalyst who is writing a groundbreaking treatise on the sexuality of American women. The German born doctor, who is very ineffective and insecure in his writing, hasn't a clue about the sexual identity struggles of his wife Agnes (Frances Lee McCain) and daughter Daisy (Deborah Fink). This doctor firmly believes that the American woman is more interested in material things, like buying a hat, than erotic implementation.

Agnes is having a secret affair with the doctor's much younger colleague Edgar (Kevin Rolston) while 35 year old "old maid" Daisy is slowly turning to lesbianism and has a crush on her next door neighbor Ruby (Rebecca Noon), a na´ve pregnant housewife. Interspersed with the action on stage is a video interview of Joy (Anne Darragh), a modern wife in the 21st century, on the sexual habits of today's American woman. These interview clips occur at various times during the progress of the play and show the awakening of the sexual revolution in the late '80s and '90s.

Dialogue by the 1950s cast is strictly from an early TV sitcom, and these characters are very two dimensional. The playwright penned these speeches purposely to show the difference between the '50s characters and the currently hip Joy in the video interviews.

Jarion Monroe as the pompous German doctor is almost a caricature of a Freud type psychoanalyst. However, no matter how many tantrums he throws during the comedy, he shows the character's insecurities. His German accent is strictly out of those wartime movies of the '40s. Frances Lee McCain is very good as Agnes. She shows that certain enchanting quality of being very tender to the outbursts of her husband. Agnes is very amusing when she returns from her "lunches" and is captivating in the love scenes with the younger Edgar. Kevin Rolston plays Edgar as a very juvenile and self centered person. Deborah Fink's Daisy is very two dimensional, an angry middle aged woman who will never marry. She seems to stay on that track until a scene in the second act that shows the romantic side of the Daisy.

Sex Habits' video portion is well directed by Amy Glazer, and Anne Darragh is marvelous as the modern day woman. Her "talking head" acting is splendid and she makes that part of the comedy exceptional. There are brief appearances by Joy's daughter Katie, played by Stephanie Champion, who does nothing but frown on these confessions of the mother. Mark Routhier, the interviewer, is never seen in the videos.

The set by Kate Boyd is a standard set of a living/dining room. Music of the '50s is played throughout the comedy, as Dean Martin and the band of Artie Shaw give you that '50s feeling. The comedy plays through November 2 at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Ft Mason Center, San Francisco. For tickets, call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.

The Magic's next production is the world premiere of Edna O'Brien's Triptych, which opens on December 2.


Photo: David Allen


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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