Henry (Rob MacLean) & Alice (Martha Irving who directed Anne & Gilbert, The Musical for 5 years) represent the modern middle aged couple in a crumbling relationship, saying out loud what most lovers might only wish they could hear from each other at the advice of a marriage councillor.
In the first opening night of the season in Victoria, Pat Smith (Managing Director) acknowledges before the show that her small staff are “a huge part of keeping the theatre going for 34 years” & notes the 2 previews of Sexy Laundry (written by Michele Riml & directed by Ted Price, who directed last year’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun) went over swimmingly! Victoria Playhouse Board Chair Campbell Webster also stated in the introduction that he is very excited about the line up for the upcoming season featuring 5 terrific actors including, other than Irving & MacLean in this show, Cathy Jones, Johanna Nutter, & Jody Racicot.
Confronting the lack of excitement with a sex manual, loads of (inoffensive) innuendo, & shared fantasies in a synthesis of eastern design & western sensibility the stage was a penthouse in a fictitious hotel called “The L” (created by Scot McConnell in his 11th season as Set Designer). This delightfully awkward pair recited some great one liners & used some funny body language as the arguments about a stale marriage well past its best before date unfolded while seeking out ways to release their inhibitions thru massage in the opening scene.
Both in this 2 character show establish early on that they are know-it-alls with totally different approaches. Alice is insecure about her body & her age and might have just a little bit of OCD going on, while Henry is stingy, boring, bashful, & seems to feel pretty inadequate as a husband. Just like most of us in “the real world”, their only crime is being ordinary people who try to be something they’re not in the pursuit of happiness.
The Price of Keeping up with The Joneses…
Ever since couples like Al & Peg Bundy from the sitcom Married with Children have been on TV I’ve found the tennis match of put-downs & cheap shots to be pretty amusing. Of course, it’s not as much fun if you aren’t on the outside looking in. That’s what’s so great about seeing great actors express the emotions that are most people are too proud or afraid to comunicate when they have so much to lose.
Seems as though most successful men want the trophy wife, consequentially, that type of woman will probably start to feel less and less beautiful after years comparing herself to the endless parade of “it girls” in the tabloids & silver screen. It’s as if a woman starts out on top as far as self-esteem goes & slides gracelessly downhill on a slippery slope of aging, occasionally grasping on to visits to the salon, shopping sprees, trips down south, & maybe even a little plastic surgery.
The man on the other had starts at the bottom or possibly a few rungs higher on a skyscraper of a ladder to infinity where every risk, every hour of overtime, every opportunity to suck up to the boss, every missed opportunity to spend a few minutes with their kids gets them a little closer to the often unattainable financial security they’ve been fantasizing about their whole life so they can theoretically have a woman in their life that actually wants to stand by them when there is actually time to spend with eachother. Men who rate themselves by their salaries (there can only be so many millionaires, & the number of them is shrinking) can feel like an under achiever & maybe even a fraud from a young age. If they’re lucky, they’ll come to terms with things before retirement while in the meantime diving headfirst into the rat race at any angle they’re qualified or have the financial wherewithal to.
As the show continues in Act 2, ultimatums are tossed around as well as the f-word for a brief stint. The audience of folks mostly 40+ years of age really seemed to identify with Henry & Alice and no doubt can feel their pain as well as their triumphs. I’m not a psychiatrist or nothing but I can imagine that inadvertently, most couples may vicariously give their relationship at least a little bit of a tune up through the shameless antics of Henry & Alice.
Sometimes the “being & the doing” needed in a marriage is so out of sync that it’s an inevitability that a husband & wife will feel trapped in a boring place. This performance, however, was definitely anything but boring & the audience just loved it! Modern, honest, hilarious, Sexy Laundry is an alluringly entertaining romantic comedy.