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Laughing Around Town with Larry Litt

"The Same Identical Temptation"

Rebecka Ray, Roberta Wallach and Sidney Williams in "The Identical Same Temptation"

Through October 26
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00, Sunday at 3:00
Theater for the New City, First Avenue and East Tenth Street
Presented by Theater for the New City
Online ticketing available at: www.theaterforthenewcity.net
$10/tdf; Box office 212-254-1109
Reviewed by Larry Litt October 18, 2003

Forget about sex in the city. Forget about anoretic stars whining about how no man is good enough once a woman gets to know him. Forget about friends being more important than lusty desire. For an hour and 45 minutes Robert Glaudini's "The Identical Same Temptation" shows in screamingly funny scenes how ordinary, over-sexed, overweight women cope in a sexually aroused Dr. Atkins diet obsessed society.

Ida and Monnie are best friends even though they deal with each other like clients in a dominatrix' dungeon. Ida phones Monnie to invite her to try the man she took home from a bookstore after a chance encounter. He is purring on the bed waiting for orders. This premise of sharing a man gives us a primary clue to the women's sexuality. They appear to be heterosexual, but what kind of dyed-in-the-wool hetero woman shares a man she's just met and bedded with a friend?

It is Ida's personality, brought to life in a brilliantly, brutally forceful performance by Rebecka Ray, that gives us the big clue to the interplay within the play. She likes men who are pussies, men who don't act like real life action hero he-men. She wants her men to ust lie there. Then she will take charge of the situation--giving pleasure and taking pleasure at her whim, through firmly directed often physical commands. Ida's version of consensual sex is a highly tense series of directions--Suck this, lick this, lap this, put your tongue here and there, play with this until I tell you what to do next. You will satisfy me or else I will act upon you, definitely physically, perhaps violently. And that's something you really don't want. Or do you?

Monnie, submissively acted by coy and coquettish Roberta Wallach, on the other hand is a wuss, a woman who wants direction. She wants a man who leads her to do things she really wants to do but is too shy or embarrassed or insecure to ask for. She is the giggling, silly, maddeningly childish but totally complicit partner in sex who will let a man create roles for her as soon as he understands that's what she wants. Her perfect man brings out the sexual actress in her, the player who will be the perfect partner.

What these two women share as friends is their need for fulfillment. When no men are in sight, they bicker and play like lovers and there's even a suggestion they may be more than just good friends. They're concerned about each other's difficult lives and work, the lives of single women in an age of singularly occupied one bedroom urban apartments projecting lonely futures without partners for their preferred sexual needs. They are the other "Sex In the City women"--highly charged and aware of men, fully aware how easily false prospects, promises, and heart wrenching regret happen to hot and eager 40-somethings.

When Ida asks Monnie if she'd like to try sex with the recently found 27 year old Terrence, played for these women in all facets of his confounding male duplicity by Sidney Williams, Monnie is rightfully shy. However she hasn't had sex with a man in at least a year. Well, why not see what happens Monnie asks. And Ida is only too happy to find a way to please her friend. As if Ida couldn't supply the sex if she felt like it. Because Monnie is a sexual push over just like Terrence. It only takes a strong hand and minimal will to conquer her, something Terrence doesn't have or want to have. Nothing Monnie tries will arouse Terrence to dominate her. She leaves the apartment in frustration.

But a dynamic, familial mystery surrounds Terrence, the sexually passive boy. He has an identical twin brother living in England who has been his nemesis since age eleven. Where Terrence is a pussycat, Kent is a bull. Terrence tells the women, the brothers are opposites in every way. In aroused suspense, the excited audience awaits Kent's appearance.

There's a night of highly charged swing dancing where the three characters discover their roles in the relationship as defined by Ida. Next morning the door bell rings. A voice with a British accent announces he's looking for his brother. He's just arrived in New York and knows no one. He found this address on
a phone pad in Terrence apartment and figured his brother might be here. Ida is at work, but Monnie is there recovering from the previous night's drunken, dance crazed debauchery. She hesitatingly invites Kent up. It isn't long before she realizes he is the man she has always dreamed of, a man who can take her and make her come alive and elevate her to new planes, while making her explode with orgasms until she drops. Heaven on earth, the body transcendent to it's highest Tantric calling, controlled by a man with character, strength, and charm.

There are sexual revelations galore now that Kent has arrived. He's aggressive and confident compared to Terrence's almost non-presence and apathy. Kent is worldly, Terrence is insulated and self absorbed. Kent is pitted against Ida's dominance for Terrence's passivity. Ida is willing to sacrifice herself for Terrence the weak, but loathes Kent's strength because she can't control him thereafter taking credit for his pleasures. She will not submit to Kent, letting him know in a scene of militant, violent rejection. She will not be commanded. Ida will not partake in pleasure if she's not in complete control.

Glaudini's comedy is a battle of wills worthy of powerful governments where the ever paternalizing, officially empowered domestic military forces in the guise of helpful, servicing police are willing to let us live by their rules, but not willing to let us challenge their control over society. There are no alternatives in either case. Give me sex the way I want it, or nothing happens. You're out on a limb because you won't cooperate and make me happy in my approved way. Your way doesn't interest me. Forget the golden rule, this is the rule of will and physical law. The strong get what they want, the weak had better like serving the strong or they're not going to get their daily grapple in bed.

Strength needs weakness, weakness needs strength. Can we be anything other than partners in bed no matter where the power lies?

The Same Identical Temptation is a sex farce for adults and a thoughtful metaphor for our convoluted, power obsessed times. It kept me laughing for an hour and a half, and thinking about sex and power for days afterwards.

The comedy, which opened September 20 as an Off-off Broadway production, will go Off-Broadway for an extra week, now playing through October 26. [Litt]

If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at humornet@aol.com.

Copyright © 2003 Larry Litt


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