Review: MONO/POLY Openly Examines Adult Lifestyle Choices and Ramifications
For those not familiar with the term, polyamorous relationships are those in which the participating persons agree all parties involved may participate simultaneously in more than one serious or casual romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners. It's more than just a "hall pass" in which monogamous couples agree to allow their partner to be with one other person. And those two lifestyle choices are the focal point of Playwright Brian Reynolds' world premiere play MONO/POLY now at the Odyssey Theatre through November 10.
Reynolds freely admits he has been part of a polyamorous triad for over 24 years. Thus, the central polyamorous triad in his play, who have been together for 19 years, most likely represents many of the ramifications he has experienced in his own life when the chance of including others in his primary triad relationship has occurred. The subject matter in MONO/POLY is presented honestly and openly, and although no nudity takes place during the play, the frank discussions of sexuality, straight and gay, with some suggestive depiction of encounters, makes it more appropriate for adult audiences 18+.
MONO/POLY begins at a costume party, always a night for adult games of many kinds to take place, when two monogamous couples encounter a polyamorous triad of one man and his two "wives." The triad subsequently becomes entwined in the business and personal lives of the first two couples, forcing them to examine their long-held beliefs about love and marriage. They soon learn that although sexually free, the members of the triad adhere to their own fairly rigid ethical code, which apparently the monogamous couples do not. So who's more moral now? Or is cheating just cheating no matter who is involved, even if perceived permission to do so has been obtained?
This modern examination of sexual morality features Travis Joe Dixon and Georgia Gould as Jerry and Susan, the first married and monogamous couple, with Tom Trudgeon (in for Dennis Renard at the performance I attended) and Angela Sauer as Miles and Henri, the other mono couple. The poly triad is composed of Victoria (Tanya Alexander) who is the brains and financial wizard calling the shots and making all the rules, with Robert Mammana as the roguish "husband" Scott and Renata de Costa as Bridget, the "fake" wife, who meets and plays around with Krystal (Megan Gainey) dressed as the slutty gypsy at the costume party.
Alexander pulls the strings quietly with great authority, especially since Victoria holds the purse strings which fuel the company owned by Jerry and Miles. She knows exactly how to play to each person's weakness, always to her own advantage both in and out of the bedroom or boardroom. There is one incredibly sensual scene in which she sexually manipulates Jerry and Susan which may make some in the audience squirm a bit, perhaps from shock or excitement, which certainly fuels the fire at the heart of the play.
Bridget, as it turns out, is most definitely a lesbian at heart, as well as a long-term friend of Scott's, who plays more of a big brother role in her life now. There is an ongoing push me-pull you heat going on between Bridget and Henri from the moment they meet at the party, which, after being consummated, thrusts the two into a fierce debate over whether they have both cheated within their marriages by not following their respective relationship rules.
As would be expected, Henri decides to divorce Miles rather than agree to each of them having a "hall pass" or making their marriage totally open to being with others. The couple's frank discussion about examining their attraction to those of the same sex is honest and open, leaving the audience to think about their own beliefs as the play ends and the spotlight shifts from the stage to real life.
Brian Reynolds' direction and the skill of his cast contributed greatly to the honesty of each actor's performance, which allowed each character to be presented and appreciated as a total package, not just a caricature of what you would expect them to be. I found Robert Mammana to be especially exciting to watch as the many faces and aspects of Scott were reflected as his many layers were revealed, which allowed Mammana to at times seem to be the Devil himself, pulling the others down into a Hell of his, as well as their own, making. Tanya Alexander's pure authority was never in doubt, from the look in her eyes to her forceful gait and internal willpower. Travis Joe Dixon managed to steal the scene with Alexander's Victoria during his silent departure after being issued commands in order to fulfill his desire to be with her. His every movement revealed the depth of emotion involved in getting to that door and crossing the threshold into his brave new world.
Executive Producer/Costume and Set Designer Morgan MacDouglas, wife of Brian Reynolds, obviously worked closely with him to bring MONO/POLY to life onstage. Costumes are daring when they need to be, businesslike when appropriate, sometimes cute as a button, and then sexy as hell when necessary! Her open set design conveys this is a play we are watching with three permanent doors and a movable assortment of set pieces which are organized by cast members to convey changes of locations from living rooms in various homes to offices, coffee shops to bedrooms. With the availability of more than one room to be placed at a time, we often see what is going on with others as a scene is played out on another area of the stage, always reminding us that there is more going on at the same time than meets the eye in life.
So is ethical non-monogamy the way of the future in a world where alternative relationships are the norm? It just may well be, both in real life as well as in Brian Reynolds' extremely well-written and directed world premiere play MONO/POLY. Consider the possibilities. All of them. And decide for yourself.
Performances take place at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, through Sunday, November 3 on Thurs.-Sat. at 8:00 p.m., Sun. at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $27-$32 Thursdays and Fridays, $32-$37 Saturdays and Sundays, and may be reserved by calling (310) 477-2055 ext. 2, or online at http://monopolytheplay.com
Photo credit: Jamie Hughes