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The Sex Habits of American Women

a Comedy
by Julie Marie Myatt

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 1273

SHOWING : May 27, 0005 - June 25, 2005



It is 1950 America and German psychoanalyst Dr. Fritz Tittels has unlocked the female psyche. He thinks. Little does he know what lies in the hearts of his wife and spinster daughter. Meanwhile, present-day Dan decides to make a documentary about what makes modern day girls tick. He and his camera get and eyeful of the red-hot truth.

In this smart and savvy examination of how far society has come (or not come) -- playwright Julie Marie Myatt combines filmmaking and theatricality to answer Freud's age-old question -- what do women REALLY want?

Cast Michele Pearce
Director Michele Pearce
Set Designer Jamie Bullins
Lighting Designer Jessica Coale
Props Designer Elisabeth Cooper
Costume Designer Sydney Roberts
Sound Designer Clint Thornton
Dr. Tittels Eric Brooks
Cast Carolyn Cook
Edgar Cary Donaldson
Dan Daniel May
Daisy Hope Mirlis
Katie Charity Pirkle
Agnes Jackie Prucha
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Too Many Unfortunate Choices
by Dedalus
Sunday, June 26, 2005
You know what makes me really angry about some productions? A group of really good performers working at the peak of their craft, undercut by really unfortunate choices made by the playwright or director or both.

So, let’s talk about Julie Marie Myatt’s “The Sex Habits of American Women,” recently mounted by the Synchronicity Performance Group at 7 Stages Backstage space. The concept is simple – In the late 1940’s /early 1950’s, a German Psychiatrist rights a book on “The Sex Habits of American Women,” all the while portraying the sensitivity and perception of a rottweiler. This provides many opportunities for wife Jackie Prucha and daughter Hope Mirlis to show us the exasperation they have for this man, and how clueless he really is about women. Meanwhile, a contemporary documentary filmmaker is interviewing a modern woman about contemporary attitudes, reaching the conclusion that a woman’s mind is ultimately private and unknowable.

Let’s take a closer look at this. Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and others who began documenting sexuality in the 1940’s and 1950’s literally opened the door for the awakening and reconsideration of gender roles that began in the 60’s and continue to this day. The were pioneers in acknowledging that women were in fact sexual creatures whose minds and bodies were valid and worthy of study. They used strict and repeatable scientific techniques, and wrote their ground-breaking works after years of study and research.

To satirize them by creating a pompous, self-important bozo named Fritz Tittels (please!) mouthing off his opinions, colored as they are by the time he works, is misdirected and unfair. It is tantamount to satirizing, say, Rosa Parks as a character who struggled to keep her people in the back of the bus. It is setting up a “straw man” who never existed to make arguments no one disagrees with. The video segments were equally misguided – yes, we know the point is to contrast contemporary attitudes with those of fifty years ago, but does anyone really disagree with this point, or need to see it endlessly repeated.

Worse, the play then degenerates into a Douglas Sirk melodrama with the mother becoming a villain who, true more to the melodramas of the day than to actual incidents, makes a devil’s bargain with her young lover. Would any mother do this to her daughter? Would any lover agree to it? Only in the mind of a contemporary playwright feeling smugly superior to a previous generation. And, while we’re on the subject of contrivance, how can you predict what the connection is between two plots in a dual-timeline story such as this? Well, which character has no purpose whatsoever in the 1940’s/50’s storyline other than to have a baby …

Now comes the hard part. I like Synchronicity’s work, and get along well with the folks who run it, including Michele Pearce, who directed this time out. To criticize their work is hard. But there were two aspects of the staging of this play that struck me as counter-productive and most unfortunate.

First, the video. I grumbled a couple weeks ago about the disconnect between video and theatre, and how sightlines, a concern of the theatre director, is no concern of the videographer. This is especially relevant here, since so much of this play happens on the video. The backstage area at 7 Stages and very adaptable – playing areas and audience space can be changes to suit the needs of the production. So, why was this play staged three-sided, with the video projected on a part of the set that is totally unseeable by a significant number of audience members? For Act Two, I had to sit in one of those seats, and the video was totally unwatchable. In one case, it was even blocked by set pieces and characters who remained on stage. Of course, I do not know all the factors which had to go into how the set and audience were configured. All I’m saying is that the choice finally made was … unfortunate.

The second problem was with scene changes – they were far too long, most of them to go into and out of small isolated scenes that added little to nothing to the show. Yes, I liked the staging of the bed so it was as if we were above it looking down. But was the information we learned in those scenes (things we already knew) worth taking two minutes to set up and take down? Just as one conceptual idea, what if the bed were visible for the whole play, a motif of the theme which could also have been a video “screen?” All I’m saying is the choices made to get into and out of the different scenes were way too long, and gave us too much time to get angry about the misconceptions and missed opportunities the script presented. As an example of a good scene-change design, one needed to look no further than how Clint Thornton used this same space to get into and out numerous scenes in Synchronicity’s companion piece, “Alexander and the Terrible, etc etc etc.”

But, in the midst of all this anger and criticism I felt after seeing this piece, I have to commend, as usual, Jackie Prucha and Caroline Cook. These two actresses can do more with a sigh, with a look, with a tilt of the head, than most actors can do with a page of dialog. While consideration of the play and its staging made me angry, consideration of these two did not. Their commitment to these characters and their submersion in these roles were all that I go to theatre for, and to watch them is see a level of artistic achievement I’m afraid is still in the future for their playwright.

So, to sum up, this is a play about how unknowable the mind and wants of a woman can be. Speaking as a culturally-blinded (of course) male, all I have to say is, Who Don’t Know That?

-- Brad Rudy (


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