Left Coast Theatre, 325-6500. Through June 30.
As any freshly minted B.A.-holding hack can tell you (as he hands you your fries and a shake), all art is subjective, and none so much as erotica. When it comes to arousing art, one person's thrill is another's swill. So to provide a multifaceted view of The Erotica Project, we sent one reviewer from each of the four major sexual food groups.
Hannah Levin, Heterosexual Woman
While the erotic lives of women have no doubt been improved by the work of pro-sex feminists like Eve Ensler and Nancy Friday, the time has definitely come for perspectives of female desire that don't have to result in grand awakenings, subversions of paradigms, or "take back the vulva" sloganeering. What's absorbing about Kibby Munson's production of The Erotica Project is that although all the pieces are performed by women, the tone isn't overtly feminized--it just feels lucidly human. "A Man Between My Thighs" conquers a politically overdue topic (cerebral feminists can enjoy being submissive without wallowing in political quagmires), but Wesley Middleton's delivery is so joyously shameless that what could have sounded like a self-righteous assertion becomes a very accurate sketch of why people enjoy giving up control in bed. The contributions of Bhama Roger are especially impressive: With raunchy intellectual grace, she shifts effortlessly between the grizzled, belligerent comedy of a leering male barfly and an unsentimental and decidedly unrepentant portrayal of Mary Magdalene.
Rebecca Brown, Homosexual Woman
Most bad writing about sex tries to take itself too seriously. It sounds like wilted pimples. The Erotica Project, on the other hand, emphasizes the humor, silliness, messiness, ridiculousness, and plain ol' happy-face-inducing brain-deathness of sex. It is good writing about sex.
The show is a series of monologues by straight women. Though the actual mechanics these gals describe are not up, as it were, my lesbo alley, the anecdotes manage to transcend the peculiarities of heterosexual perversion and say something to everyone. My favorite monologue was about a mother who, while vacationing in Paris, wakes her eight-year-old daughter to view an open flatbed truck filled with French whores dressed like American presidents. I can't remember if it was the Washington or Lincoln whore who does it, but one of them sings "The Star Spangled Banner," or maybe "My Country 'Tis of Thee." What I will forever remember is that she/he sang it from her... uh... his labial lips.
Tom Spurgeon, Heterosexual Man
Producer Kibby Munson aptly notes in the program for The Erotica Project that one person's erotica is someone else's pornography. Unfortunately for many in the show's audience, those boundaries also exist in the other direction: What is invigorating and daring to one person is strictly dullsville to another. Lillian Ann Slugocki and Erin Cressida Wilson's series of short monologues are a Whitman's sampler of mainstream erotic writing, familiar via repetition to anyone who reads Salon, let alone semi-mainstream magazines like Libido or any of the niche-friendly book anthologies that fill specialty bookstore shelves nationwide. Slugocki and Wilson paint by the numbers: the liberating declarations of desire, the humorous explications of childhood encounters, even the risk-taking admissions of the not-always- wholesome allure of sex in power relationships and religion. Despite a uniformly strong cast and facile direction from K. Brian Neel, this project is remarkable only in the completeness of its embrace of mid-'90s sex-positive orthodoxy--not an unforgivable sin, but hardly the basis for a compelling night of theater.
Adrian Ryan, Homosexual Man
This was a provocative idea: Take the gayest man alive (i.e., me) and hole him up in a room full of women who do little other than detail the aesthetics and lurid inner workings of their genitalia. (Who knew there were so many euphemisms for "vagina"? I counted at LEAST 12!). But The Erotica Project is a real gem--not provocative, but evocative. To my great and throbbing delight, The Erotica Project treated sex as it ought to be treated: arousing, exciting, and naughty. Simply put, sex is sexy. It's not a political platform or a psychological issue, and it does not have to involve abuse, rape, perversion, aberration or any other tired theatrical affectations to be salient or intelligently presented. When these lovely ladies say "cunt," they aren't trying to be edgy or in your face--they're just really proud of their cunts, thank you. It's a beautiful and refreshing concept, beautifully and refreshingly done. The Erotica Project left me with a fresh new respect for women and heterosexuality, and a lingering affection for the word "snatch." Who'da thunk it?
Final tally: The Erotica Project is smart 'n sexy fun for homos and hetero women. Straight guys, go to Hooters.