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It's Just Sex - A Comedy About Lust & Trust 2016
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NoHo Arts District
Written by Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Let me just start by saying that this show has already received many, many accolades over the years. It’s actually touted as “L.A.’s longest running comedy,” with successful runs Off-Broadway in New York, and many other cities including Austin, TX, Denver, CO as well as productions in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Greece and, soon, Israel and Brazil.
After performances all over the globe, this revival brings it back home to NoHo where it premiered back in 2002, and for the first time with an entirely black cast.

This award wining ‘lust vs trust’ play brings us into the world of three couples. These long standing friends, with their kids away at camp, meet up, as they regularly do, for drinks and dinner at one of their homes. But on this particular evening one of them has just walked in on their husband entertaining a hooker in their home…

Instead of the predictable blow up, drag out fight, the wife in question, Joan, has a shock induced brainwave and decides to continue the evenings festivities. After everyone has a few drinks Joan proposes a couples swap, presumably to get back at her errant husband. The other couples, oblivious to Joan’s motivation, and with alcohol steeling their resolve and dulling their senses agree to give it a try, some more enthusiastically than others.
So the scene is set, the couples retreat to various rooms and the deeds are done, undone and not done…

What we are left with is a very interesting and very authentic portrait of regret, revenge and restraint…all culminating in various juicy and powerful revelations, as well as some life changing re-evaluations…at least for some.

Yes, this is a titilating and hilarious play about sex. It’s very funny and very revealing, but ultimately their revelations are much, much more intimate the minute they all stop having sex with each other…

This is a play about trust and how when it’s gone it can be gone forever, but equally that the loss of trust might be much more about something other than what we always think it is about….if you know what I mean…

Relationships are hard, we all know that to be true, and after we have been with the same person for a while what once had seemed so charming now seems far less so and sometimes it can seem down right soul destroying. Nothing is simple, nothing is easy and nothing is ever like it was in the beginning. Accepting that can be more than some are able to do, and it’s at that point when bad decisions are made…this is a play about some very bad decisions.

It points no fingers, although many accusations are made, instead in their own feeble and warped way these characters manage to find their way through the mishaps and misadventures of the day and emerge somewhat in tact, although utterly changed.

In a word this play is ‘deep.’ It is a romp and and a bit farcical at times, but it strives to be about something. It strives to be about the pressures we all put upon ourselves and each other to be perfect, and when we are not, which we never ever are, how we torment each other with our failures instead of understanding them and expecting them even, and how that torment destroys us little bit by little bit. How much simpler would it be if we could embrace our flaws, and love each other the more for the recognition of them….if only eh?

And so to the performances…can I single anyone out? I could, probably, but suffice it to say that all these astounding actors were perfect. Perfectly cast, perfectly rehearsed and perfectly connected to each other. However great the material an actor has to work with, and this play is absolutely brilliantly written and full of the kind of one liners you only wish you had thought up yourself, it takes a truly sublime actor to bring those words to life.

The cast of ‘It’s Just Sex’ is truly sublime. Funny, real, ferociously real in fact, they take what could be a bunch of stereotypically successful thirty something people and fill them with nuance and empathy and truth. Honestly I couldn’t applaud loudly enough for them. This is pretty raw and raunchy stuff, and that can be difficult to perform, tricky to get right and daunting for an actor to attempt, but they were all so open and brave and trusting of each other that it was just a thrilling play to watch, something very, very special. This is helped in no small part by the expertise of Director Rick Shaw, who’s years of comedy directing experience give him rare insight and a deft hand.

And funny! I don’t think I have laughed out loud so much during a play for a very long time, I can completely understand why it’s been such a success world wide. My only question is this, where’s the movie?? It certainly would make a fantastic film…just a thought folks!
I highly recommend ‘It’s Just Sex’ at the Secret Rose Theatre. Run don’t walk to get your tickets, I hear they are selling out fast…

People's World

“It’s Just Sex!” - Hit play in a (mostly) all-Black version
Written by Ed Rampell

LOS ANGELES - It's Just Sex! is much more than just a lot of fun. This one-acter, written by Jeff Gould, is a witty, insightful sexploration of sexuality, as well as of love, relationships, marriage, monogamy, wife (and husband!) swapping, sexual dysfunction and more. An excellent ensemble deftly directed by Rick Shaw presents a highly enjoyable, thought-provoking night at the theatre.

The premise is simple: Three upwardly mobile, thirtyish couples get together for a party and, shall we say, things just spiral out of control. Since Sex! was originally presented in 2002 at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, like sex itself, there have been many iterations of the 90-minute show at a variety of venues around L.A. and beyond, including runs in Athens (Greece) and Off-Broadway.

What distinguishes the current production at the aptly named Secret Rose Theatre in the NoHo Arts District is that it's an all-Black (and brown!) production. Claiming a venerable tradition, like Historically Black Colleges, the all-Black show falls into roughly two categories. The first are productions that were originally conceived as having all- or mostly-Black casts. These have generally been musicals, such as Porgy and Bess and Cabin in the Sky, a musical play which was adapted for the screen in 1943, co-directed by Vincente Minnelli and Busby Berkeley, starring Ethel Waters, Rochester and Lena Horne (who also headlined 1943's likewise all-ebony Stormy Weather, co-starring Bojangles and Cab Calloway).

The other type of all-Black show is an adaptation of a show generally performed by non-Black actors (playing non-Black characters), utilizing nontraditional casting. Otto Preminger's 1954 Carmen Jones, with a book by Oscar Hammerstein II, adapted Georges Bizet's 1875 classic, Spain-set opera Carmen and re-envisioned it in (what was then) modern times in the U.S., starring Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll.

It's Just Sex! falls into this latter category. Having not seen any of the earlier renditions of Sex!, I can't exactly tell how this all-Black production differs from its predecessors. Is the colorful casting just a gimmick or is it more meaningful? Does it add a new, deeper dimension? A new spin? It's hard for this virgin reviewer to know. But one thing is for sure: This show surely sizzles.

It is also, strictly speaking, not an all-Black production. Kimberly Green plays Joan, who is identified during the course of Sex! as being Puerto Rican (with the obligatory stereotypical reference to hot Latina chicks). According to her listing Green is half Puerto Rican and half Korean. Talk about Seoul on ice! In any case, like the rest of the cast, she does a fab job in the comedic and dramatic scenes - and also has great legs.

Which leads to another question: Nudity and sex on the live stage. For ages sexplicit scenes were illegal, but now that nudity and depictions of sexuality are no longer barred onstage and onscreen, how do directors, playwrights and actors take advantage - or not - of this greater freedom? The naked truth is there is actually little, if any, nudity per se in Sex! However, there is a knee-slapping sequence making the best (and most hilarious) use of screens, silhouettes and shadows since I saw wayang kulit (shadow puppet plays) in Bali. Bravo to all involved, including skillful lighting designer Skylar Johnson!

Karimah Westbrook (Badasssss, The Rum Diary) as Lisa has an exquisite visage: Watching her face for an hour and a half is alone worth the price of admission. She is as beautiful as she is expressive, as Lisa emasculates her belittled husband Greg (Jeremy Walker), who, shall we say, ultimately rises to the occasion and turns the tables in this play that is also about power plays and struggles in an era of changing male-female relationships, when gender roles are shifting and females may out-earn their male mates.

The rest of the attractive cast is spot on: Marie-Francoise Theodore as Joan, the spurned wife who begins the party's festivities by insisting that the six friends play an ultra-honest game. As Carl, David Haley (the Actors' Gang's 1984; TV's Justified, Jane the Virgin, Sons of Anarchy) was my favorite character (probably because Carl is a writer!). Caz Harleaux plays Phil, and Denise Milfort is Amanda, the hooker (Amanda Alexander alternates in this steamy part).

Sex! reveals and revels in the notion that when it comes to sensuality, one size doesn't fit all. And viva la difference! Although bluenoses suffering from Comstockery may be put off by the candid conversation and goings on, most heterosexual adult theatergoers are likely to want to light up a cigarette after this rollicking play - even if they don't smoke.

And after this all-Black production, one can only imagine what's next for this oft-produced play. Putting ethnic jokes and stereotypes aside, how about an all-LGBT production - that will debut in North Carolina! Hey, keep cool, y'all in bible thumper land - it's just sex!

The Geeks Authority

“Funny! Smart! Exciting! Intelligent! “It’s Just Sex!” Is Just Fabulous!”
Written By Lorenzo Marchessi

“It’s Just Sex!” is one of the most wonderfully original, smart and cleverly funny adult themed comedy plays that I have seen in a long time. Having played off-Broadway and winning awards in the various theatre communities, this was the most fun I have had in a theatre in a long time. Playing at The Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood, this is a funny slice-of-life comedy about what a good, bad and borderline relationship/marriage is really all about Oh so brilliantly written by Jeff Gould, this is the story of three couples learning about their relationships the hard way. It’s funny, so funny and it touches on every sexual taboo you could think of. Prostitution, marital swapping, swinging and so so so much more is the pallet of subjects talked in this very funny play. Under it all is this amazing group of characters and a dynamic in their friendship you’ll be so surprised with – but more importantly you can understand, relate and you’ll laugh your ass off at what these characters do.

I have to give much kudos to director Rick Shaw who did two amazing things. One, he got together this incredible talented and funny cast and two, he staged the production with such a wit and pace that you really never see the situations coming until - bang – the comedy hits you!

David Haley plays Carl, the husband of Kelly – and I have to say – one of the most interesting and hysterically funny performers to watch. His expressions alone, not to mention his physicality is just what comedy is all about. David has the energy and excitement but delivers a real character with conviction and tempers it with humor and light-hearted fun. His on stage chemistry with Kimberly is both touching and electrically funny!

Marie-Francoise Theodore plays Joan, the wife of Phil – and she has the most serious of the issue to deal with, however she delivers the sarcasm and snarky snootiness of a wife who is fed up. As a result, Marie-Franciose’s performance is sharp and edgy but always with a tinge of humor. Her onstage chemistry with Caz is made of sarcastic slams to each other and lots of long eye stares to each other – that if either of them had lasers attached to their eyes – they’d both be dead.

Kimberly Green plays Kelly, wife of Carl –and what a whirlwind of a performance she gives. She has so much character and zest. Kimberly gets angry one second and falls in love the next (with her husband) and above it all has to respond to David performance with such fluctuations that it was like watching a ‘comedy tennis match’ between the two of them. She gave as good of comedy hits as he did! So much fun!

Jeremy Walker plays Greg, husband of Lisa – and his performance was a cross between being a loner and over-reacting. Jeremy was so funny as he often said things that he didn’t mean at their face value – but ended up getting him in more trouble anyway. His energy and eventual anger leads to some very funny and, by the end, touching scenes. Again, watch his face and eyes as he reacts to his wife and friends and you’ll be laughing under your laugh.

Caz Harleaux plays Phil, husband of Joan – and besides being big and beefy, is the character that really breaks the traditions of marriage and friendship. As a direct result of what he did, everyone else unravels in ways they never thought they would. Caz performance is also very funny as his strength is not only physical but in his subtle moves and motions clearly expressing what he is thinking.

Karimah Westbrook plays Lisa, wife of Greg – and as the lawyer has the challenge of playing this logical and business focused wife, while being insensitive to her husband and his needs. Karimah does a great job of walking that fine line and has a large lesson to learn by the end of the play. Her performance is honest and neat – while her humor comes for constantly comparing and analyzing her husband.
Denise Milfort plays Amanda the Hooker – although a small role, she gives it her all. Being sexy, honest and fast – she really motivates his wife to what ends up being a very funny and surprising adult adventure.

With set design by Josh Lacovelli and Rick Shaw and lighting design by Skylar Johnson, this was a very uniquely entertaining and funny piece. Using scrims and back lighting you get to see some of the funniest ‘sex’ scenes (remember behind a scrim) you’ll ever see in shadow.

I’m not kidding – you got to see this production at The Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood. It’s completely adult themed with suggested sex, swearing, slight nudity and buckets and buckets of very funny performers and rich believable characters that you’ll probably want to see it again. It’s that funny. “It’s Not Just Sex!” – is a life lesson learned and with a smart and intelligent commentary of relationships, marriage and friendship! Go see it! Now! Check them out at ItsJustSexPlay dot com or SecretRose dot com and tell them Lorenzo sent you from FaceBook dot com/TheGeekAuthority !

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