Last week, I went to see one of the Honours Performance Series plays, Unoriginal Sin. In the director’s notes, they write, “While we know that this will be something that may cause you discomfort, our overall goal is to make you really consider your everyday views on sex.” I take this to be the thesis of their play, but I don’t think the play successfully achieved their goal. They also stated that they wanted to “tackle the subject of sex in our times as honestly and directly as possible,” and open a discussion about the “complexities” that sex brings to our lives. Unfortunately, the characters were shallow — almost all were essentially the same characters with only two notable outliers — and the “complexities” of sex were watered down to scenes of people making out and dancing together.
I can’t express enough how boring and unoriginal this play was. Not even the masturbation or kissing scenes piqued my interest — both of which were just meant to be shock factors rather than much of a plot point. The humour was very uninspired. When one of the characters (Dylan) is seen flipping through Tinder, he makes a lot of jokes about the app. His gripes are the usual: he doesn’t like when people use group photos as their display photo. Of course the audience laughed — the experience is relatable, and Dylan simply named off everyone’s problems with their Tinder experiences.
Then, there’s a strange, borderline problematic, line. In one scene, Amy and Kyle are on a date — Amy, begrudgingly; Kyle, excitedly — and Kyle spends the whole time trying to convince her to have a good time, and Amy is just bratty about it. Then, Kyle defends his intentions by saying, “when you meet a great girl you have to go after her,” and then calls Amy beautiful. So, how is she a great girl, again? All he knows about her is that she’s attractive. Now, I assume that this was meant to be a subversive part, but I think that that assumption grants the play too much credit.
What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser. In one part of the play, two characters — named Kyle and Dylan — were talking about their plans for the evening, and Kyle made a joke about Dylan being on Tinder, Bumble … and then Grindr, which he and the audience chuckled about. What is the joke here? Is the joke that Dylan is gay? That he uses an app specifically for men who are gay? I don’t know why there was a pause to make it a joke, and I don’t know why the audience found it humorous.
The gay men were a strange piece of comic relief. Even at the end, when taking bows, they came out together with one hand on the other’s back. Why? For what? To continue to get the positive reaction they got when they had kissed on stage and everyone cheered?
Finally, I was confused about the costume design at the end of the play. Everyone was dressed in white. The associations with white are usually “purity,” and “virginity,” yet, at the end of the play, the virgin (Brooke) was no longer a virgin. When I asked one of the cast members what the directors’ intention was with this final costume, they were told that that was just the way it was, although the symbolism of the “pure” white clothing did not fit the tone of the play’s ending.
What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser.
The best parts of the play were those without dialogue. So much more was said in these parts, and the plot moved quicker during the tableau-esque moments.
This play didn’t make me uncomfortable for the reasons they may think — it made me uncomfortable that I had to watch rehashed jokes on stage and listen to an audience laugh and laud about gay men just doing normal things that even heterosexual couples do.
As a final note: I would love to lend my copy of The History of Sexuality by Foucault to the directors.