BWW Reviews: Stages Repertory Theatre's SEXY LAUNDRY is a Sweet Romantic Comedy
While Valentine's Day is just around the corner, Stages Repertory Theatre is getting Houston audiences in the spirit with the Regional Premiere of Michele Riml's romantic comedy, SEXY LAUNDRY. The play focuses on Alice and Henry, a middle-aged married couple who have hung their last lingering hopes of rejuvenating their marriage on a weekend getaway to a swanky hotel. With a copy of Sex for Dummies in hand, the husband and wife duo unsteadily embark on a night that could very well make or break their twenty-five year marriage. While SEXY LAUNDRY delivers plenty of laughs and is chock full of awkward moments, underneath it all is a touching and tender narrative that is sure to leave the audience with a smile on their face.
SEXY LAUNDRY, running approximately 85 minutes, is a quick peak into Henry and Alice's stagnating marriage, and Kenn McLaughlin's direction ensures that the audience is engaged the entire time. His direction successfully brings out the dynamic nature of both characters, thus presenting us with a couple that we not only laugh at, but one that we cheer on, relate to, and root for all at the same time. His best feat is coaching his cast to create comedic characters that seem genuinely organic and real.
Susan Koozin leads the audience in hearty doses of laughter as the distraught housewife Alice. While she remains lithe and attractive, she has simply lost the confidence in herself to appear or feel sexy. Susan Koozin deftly portrays Alice as a compassionate yet controlling woman who will go to great lengths to restore the missing passion in her marriage. Her performance is all around memorable as she makes us laugh with her recitation of her private fantasy and her comedic but relatable monologue about her experience at the gym.
Playing Henry, Josh Morrison does a good job creating a character that is uncomplicated and inhibited. He presents Henry as a multifaceted character. On the one hand he is a simple man who is devoted to his family. While on the other, he is uptight, dwelling in a constant state of mid-life uncertainty. Josh Morrison is so convincing in his portrayal of Henry as a hesitant, repressed, and somewhat miserly man, that the moments where he throws all inhibition to the wind are easily some of the best parts of this production.
The true highlight of this production comes from the two actors' chemistry onstage. Together, they pristinely play off of each other in ways that only a couple with a long history together would, and they excel at creating a husband and wife that exhibits dissatisfaction with marriage and to a much greater extent life in general. Susan Koozin and Josh Morrison gift audiences with a charismatic duo that is mature yet naïve, and furthermore, a couple that we find ourselves rooting for from beginning to end.
The play takes place in one location, an upscale hotel room, which is constructed beautifully by Scenic Designer Kristina Miller. Each detail is perfectly reminiscent of a luxury hotel room stay from the modern bed frame to the swank sitting area. Bryan Ealey's Lighting Design and Jack Ivy's Sound Design work well together to transpose the audience from the hotel room and place them into the minds of the couple as they fantasize and reminisce. However, there are moments in the production where the lighting dims in central areas that are not being utilized in order to spotlight the couple as they are talking, and at these times it feels distracting and unnecessary since the venue is already so intimate. John Santillan's Costume Design is quite effective and discerning of Alice's explorative nature and Henry's subdued demeanor. Finally, Properties Design by Jodi Bobrovsky is meticulously crafted and well utilized to elicit some of the greatest laughs in the show.
Stages Repertory Theatre's production of SEXY LAUNDRY delights on many levels. It has all of the whit and whimsy of your typical romantic comedy, but is generously matched with an underlying sense of tension, desire, and compassion that hooks you in from the very beginning. The cast and crew do a great job to keep audience members laughing throughout the performance all the while softly tugging at their heartstrings.