A Modern Couple Charts Plot Points in Our Sexual Development
Miranda Rose Hall's two-person play is about the relationship between a woman and a trans man.
I can think of few activities less appealing to follow a session of bad sex than an impromptu hour of DIY couples therapy. Yet that is exactly what is depicted in Plot Points in Our Sexual Development, Miranda Rose Hall's new show at LCT3, in which the complete disclosure of sexual histories chases a painful sexual encounter between Cecily (Marianne Rendón) and Theo (Jax Jackson). It's the relationship equivalent of sucking on a lime after a shot: unpleasant, but it does cleanse the palate.
This one-hour two-hander is at its best when it is divulging the series of events that helped Catholic goody-goody Cecily realize that she is a femme lesbian, and led Theo down the well-traveled path from butch lesbian to transgender. Hall has written these stories with ample wit and vivid detail, so that we are able to see the events in our minds even though these monologues are all tell and no show. Cecily shares a hilarious story about her school's abstinence-only sex education program, in which a woman's virginity is compared to a stick of gum — you wouldn't put it in your mouth after it had already been chewed, would you? Theo shares a particularly harrowing story about ogling a beautiful woman in line at Hershey Park, only to be violently threated and called a "little dyke" by the woman's territorial boyfriend.
Both actors are captivating storytellers, so that we hang on every word. Rendón has a quirky, quippy delivery that milks the humor out of Hall's text, while also allowing the sediment of Cecily's adolescent neurosis to rise to the surface. Jackson (who uses the pronoun "Jax") is amiably self-possessed, but also more emotionally vulnerable. Tears well in Jax's eyes as Cecily delivers an epic rant about her teenage desire for a husband and children in a garden-variety heterosexual relationship.
But as you've deduced by now, this is not your average heterosexual relationship and they face challenges that may seem quite exotic for some viewers. Hall sensitively unpacks those issues and arranges them on an accessible shelf of clichés. As she too bursts into tears, Cecily remarks, "I feel like something in me is breaking open, like I could crack into a million pieces." And we feel like we're at a live taping of Dr. Phil.
Margot Bordelon's no-frills production smartly puts few obstacles between the storytellers and the audience. Andrew Boyce's set exudes the falsely domestic emptiness of a studio set for a daytime talk show, with Cecily and Theo seated in bland armchairs at opposite ends of the stage. Jiyoung Chang's lighting dutifully goes up on each of them when they are speaking, leaving the inactive partner in the darkness. Sarafina Bush convincingly outfits our two characters in nondescript off-the-rack duds that one would wear to a very serious relationship talk. And talk they do.
Plot Points in our Sexual Development succeeds in making trans relationship issues seem familiar, relatable, and thoroughly mundane. Yes, couples in which one partner is trans face issues of sexual compatibility and unfulfilled expectations — as we all do. For an hourlong chat about sex though, it is thoroughly unsexy, which makes this play a triumph of normalizing literature, but fairly dull drama.