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The Flower Room

a Comedy
by Daryl Lisa Fazio

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 5258

SHOWING : April 21, 2018 - May 13, 2018



Ingrid is an uptight academic who researches sexual behavior in primitive cultures while remaining completely closed off from her own sexual self. When she loses her university job, she turns to writing erotica to pay the bills – unleashing her own journey of sexual discovery. This hilarious madcap comedy was included in AE’s Threshold Festival of New Plays.

Playwright Daryl Lisa Fazio
Director Melissa Foulger
Cherry Como Eliana Marianes
Ingrid Alvin Stacy Melich
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Gender-Fluid Porn
by playgoer
Sunday, April 22, 2018
At least in previews, "The Flower Room" starts with a supertitle announcing "Today," followed by a scene that seems melodramatic, with an overwrought woman trying to prevent the entry of a young black man into her house. It becomes obvious that she is (or was) a professor and that he is a student, but the reason for the heightened emotions is unclear. The supertitle would lead us to believe that we will see flashbacks explaining the situation. Wrong. The scenes play out sequentially, with the situation clarified in the next scene, but with new complications following that bring us into the warm, sticky waters of gender fluidity and repressed sexuality.

Professor Ingrid Alvin (Stacy Melich) has quit her job after the whiff of scandal. Her brother Anthony (Matthew Busch) tips her off to a website that peddles feminist porn with academic, sociological underpinnings. Ingrid recruits a student (Joshua Quinn) and an omnisexual Barnes & Noble employee (Eliana Marianes) as subjects to interview about their sexual encounters to add spice to her "narratives."

Her first attempt at a narrative is dry as dust, comically acted out and lip-synced by Ms. Marianes and Mr. Quinn in vaguely oriental costumes as Ingrid narrates. The encounter takes place in a "flower room," a Mosuo Chinese custom of providing a young woman with a bedroom containing an outside door to allow the entry and departure of nighttime male guests. We don’t get full narratives of the spicier fare, but are told it’s quite popular with the web crowd. Trick it out with a sociological background, but porn is still porn.

Daryl Lisa Fazio’s play is populated by two bisexual individuals and two sexually confused individuals who find satisfaction by the end of the show. It’s a bit schematic, and seems calculated to titillate audiences with a variety of possible couplings. It doesn’t always ring true, particularly in the meeting of toned student Miles and schlubby brother Anthony, when each praises the other’s physique, but it all fits in with the sex-drenched atmosphere of the comedy.

Action takes place on a set designed by Kristina White. Downstage we have the entry, living room, and tiny kitchen of Ingrid’s house, all done in the clean lines of prairie craftsman style, with a wonderful collection of props by Suzanne Cooper Morris. Upstage, we have the "flower room," a bedroom decorated in faux wallpaper with massive blooms. Draped French doors to the outside are bafflingly unused, although Mary Parker’s lighting scheme nicely backlights them and otherwise illuminates the action as needed. Samantha P. McDaniel’s modern day costumes clothe (and unclothe) the actors as needed, with thrown-together Mosuo garb for the lip-synched narrative scene.

Melissa Foulger has directed the show with lots of impassioned, overlapping dialogue and clunky stage business (especially making ice cream sundaes). Courtney Greever-Fries’ sound design doesn’t help, with cat and phone ring sounds coming obviously from a backstage area unrelated to the position from which the sound supposedly is coming. Performances vary in quality. Ms. Marianes is always a delight onstage, and Mr. Busch acquits himself well. Mr. Quinn seems a bit callow as an actor, and Ms. Melich has a somewhat grating quality in her over-the-top behavior that competes with the script’s requirement that she be sexually alluring (if unconsciously so).

"The Flower Room" is one of those plays designed to exploit current social trends (gender fluidity, in this case), gussying it up with some faux-scientific chatter and ethnocultural references to give it some supposed dramatic heft. It’s entertainment for those who enjoy partial nudity (male backside; female breasts) and titteringly suggestive situations. Maybe it’s your cup of steamy, mouth-watering tea, but it isn’t everyone’s. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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