Cheryl King’s one-woman play "not a nice girl" is a valiant yet unsuccessful attempt to explore a woman’s sexual needs and desires as she confronts the temptations of adultery. Set in a hotel room in Los Angeles, the play centers on Kentucky-born, middle-aged Cheryl (Cheryl King), a movement teacher and wife, whose life is challenged by the prospect of an affair with a student. Given the banality of such a scenario, King made a spirited effort to break free of the confines of cliché but only produced a series of loosely linked scenes that were long on presentation and exposition but short on drama and pathos.
Following a ruse to rid herself temporarily of her husband, Cheryl tempts fate via masturbation and other autoeroticisms, utilizing her student’s blue shirt as a stimulus. These juxtaposed experiences spawn her questioning whether to pursue a real encounter with this student and whether she should stay faithful to a husband who fails to satisfy her erotic needs. Her reflections generate a sequence of explorations of the past, present, and spiritual aspects of her sexual life.
Investigating her past, she relives proto-sexual experiences and poor life choices and the roles adults played in confusing her mind and repressing her instincts. In doing so, she encounters and fights off her religious and repressive mother and an array of hypocritical, controlling, and malicious male authority figures. Eying her present moments, Cheryl expounds on typical concerns and complaints about a safe marriage with a doting but uninspiring husband, posing ideas and questions about monogamy and married life. Through her spiritual life she engages in aggressive conversations with an intolerant and insensitive male god, and also communes and connects with her sexual essence, leading to a reconciliation of her dilemma over stability versus desire.
Although the play had vibrant intentions, it failed to bring to life the visceral realities of its themes. Hampered by a wobbly plot utilizing overt symbols and mechanic mnemonics to connect its vignettes, the production lacked drama and came off as an onstage essay, with each caricature and static musing contributing a paragraph to the predictable thesis. The textual building blocks of Cheryl’s screeds on married life were pedestrian in style and offered little in the way of real confrontation or genuine intimacy. Ironically, through her role-playing, more was learned about the characters around Cheryl than about Cheryl herself.
The production values, while respectable, were not significant enough to compensate for the text’s inadequacies. Set design (Maya Ishiura) gave a fair suggestion of a hotel room while adding the magical-realist touch of upstage webbing, from which Cheryl retrieved the costume of her liberation. Durable lighting design (Eric Nightengale) and hauntingly spiritual sound design (Zack Ryan) added to the more esoteric qualities of the play. Sturdy direction (Rod Menzies)kept the actors moving but did not otherwise impel a static script.
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Copyright 2003 Adam Cooper