Review by Pauline Adamek. *This review first appeared on www.StageRaw.com * A mostly dull collection featuring corny humor, “Sex, Lies, and Social Media” is a loosely connected evening of five 10-minute short plays by different writers; Dan Berkowitz, Ron Burch, Elin Hampton, Lorin Howard and Mary Steelsmith. Live tweeting is encouraged between each play by the evening’s sultry hostess, Mariah Bonner, who introduces each play and appears as a succubus in the final one. These five were selected for presentation after a competition staged by the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP).
Common themes in each include sexual inclination, relationships and an examination of the effect of social media on daily interaction. Regrettably only two of the five have any merit.
In Mary Steelsmith’s “Happy and Gay, two drippy women, Betty (AnnaLisa Erickson) and Veronica (Steelsmith), are decorating a church hall for a pending gay wedding reception. The acting is atrocious and their nervous conversion is fake and overly cute. Additionally, the emotional payoff feels forced and unearned.
“Casey229” by Elin Hampton is funny and an improvement on the first play. After annoyingly talking around the issue, Pam (Elin Hampton) indicates she has tracked down the person whom she’s certain is conducting a cyber love affair with her husband. After confronting a portly, middle-aged shut-in named Ken (David Fury), she realizes her husband has been duped into thinking he was corresponding with a young woman. Hampton’s play maximizes the humor when we see the lengths Ken has gone to in creating his fake identity. Pam’s act of compassion by the play’s overly saccharine conclusion, however, is unconvincing.
Ron Burch’s “Rebecca’s Broken Less Than Sign Number 3” is a cute play that’s really well done; definitely the best of the bunch. Two commiserating friends, Rebecca (Diana Romo) and Megan (Oriko Ikeda), are communicating via Facebook’s messaging feed. Both are shown at their computers but we hear them speaking their writing aloud, articulating all the codes that people commonly use. Hence we hear terms such as “smiley face” and “exclamation point, exclamation point” and even “less than sign number 3” which turns into a heart symbol when entered on Facebook. The dialogue is rapid and odd, but if you’re familiar enough with this kind of coded communication on social media, you’ll soon clue in to their hilarious conversation. Producer Rose Desena directs it brilliantly, especially when an interested party, Bill (Dan Heber), interrupts their chat by popping up on Rebecca’s page.
The remaining two plays are duds. Lorin Howard’s “Uncomfortable Sex” has a young woman (Kristen Gull) arranging an in-person date for her grandmother (Joanna Miles) with hopeful suitor Marty (TJ Castronovo) via the online dating world. In “The Devil Made Me Do It” by Dan Berkowtiz, a succubus (Mariah Bonner) hopes to seduce a sleeping man (Berkowtiz), until he spoils everything by waking up.