Unnatural Acts: Two Shows Wrestle with Sex and Love

Published  May 2013

antigravity_vol10_issue7_Page_15_Image_0003Love is a many-splendored thing, sometimes involving clowns and computers. Or maybe that’s just sex. Or, possibly—could it be both? The Elm Theatre explores love in the time of the Internet in The Adventures of Butt Boy and Tigger, in its U.S. premiere. Butt Boy and Tigger debuted to soldout crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008 and was nominated for the prestigious Fringe First Award. It’s the first comedy the Elm Theatre, which opened in 2010, has produced. Director Joseph Furnari says, “The play is different than the title suggests and it is about much more than raunchy sex. If that were the case, the play would be one note and not very engaging or funny. The play is really about the relationship between a young man first coming to grips with his homosexuality, who is reaching out for a first relationship, and a man who has had numerous relationships but is now using the internet to avoid being hurt. It is about how they connect. The sexual fantasies they create are very graphic but played out on stage in a fun over-the-top comic style. The focus is on enjoying the silliness of the sexual encounters rather that creating titillating pornography.”

Though the play features the relationship of two men, Garrett Prejean (founder of the Elm and also one of the stars of Butt Boy and Tigger) believes the themes are universally appealing. “This love story happens to be two guys. But everyone has had these experiences in their lives.”

Furnari acknowledges there are risks in producing a play like this, which so openly and graphically discusses sex. “We as a society are very touchy about sex. We can be such Puritans. It’s part of what made me want to direct it. Sex is beautiful and fun, and we should celebrate it. Many people have explored sexual fantasies with their partners either through role-playing, on the phone or on the Internet. This play depicts a couple whose relationship starts this way and has the balls to show it on stage and have fun with it.” Prejean admits that he worries that “we may have stepped over the line. I go to bed thinking of that.” However, he also says that his bigger fear is to shy away from risks. “It’s really easy to get comfortable. [But] it never challenges you or the audience. It’s about not playing it safe.”

Furnari believes the play is especially relevant in that it specifically depicts a graphic sexual relationship that develops over the Internet. He elaborates that “in light of Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s much publicized internet romance scandal, former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation for texting sexually explicit photos, the growing popularity of sexting, etc., it’s clear that Internet romance and sex have become part of popular culture. Although Butt Boy and Tigger is not specifically about examining Internet relationships, it clearly enjoys having fun with people’s fascination with Internet sex and looks at the question of whether a relationship is only ‘fantasy’ without physical contact.”

antigravity_vol10_issue7_Page_14_Image_0002 Another kind of love story will play out this month on the stages of the AllWays Theatre. Crimes Against Nature: A Love Story is an original musical featuring an all-clown cast by Otter, directed by Dennis Monn, with a musical score by Ratty Scurvics and accompanied by animation by the award-winning Thomas Little. If you don’t know what “crimes against nature” are, a primer: “crimes against nature” are anti-sodomy laws, which were struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2003. However, they continue on the books here in Louisiana as a law prohibiting sex work that is not penis-in-vagina. Louisianians may be familiar with “crimes against nature” because until last year people who were convicted under these laws faced much stiffer penalties—including mandatory registration as sex offenders—than people convicted of prostitution (a charge reserved for only penis-invagina sex work). A court case was eventually brought contending this was not equal treatment and the law was revised. Otter was first inspired and created the show in 2008. She helpfully explains that the musical is named after this infamous law because, to her, it is “absurd” that “all sex that is not ‘penis to vagina missionary position between man and woman who are legally married’ is considered a crime against nature.”

antigravity_vol10_issue7_Page_14_Image_0001 Director Dennis Monn adds that the musical actually is also about “the most classic of love stories. [It] examines a forbidden love that turns tragically codependent where one partner totally depends on the other to function in society.” Happy Day and Gaye Day are cousins who are caught engaging in some lusty “crimes against nature.” They are shamed by their families and tossed from their homes. With no one else to support them, they are forced to confront the world with only each other to depend on. After traveling the roads and meeting up with old friends, they land in New Orleans where Happy gets addicted to a designer drug called Snap and becomes dependent on Gaye to sustain his habit. But don’t worry—every love story has a happy ending. Happy and Gaye aren’t just lovers forsaken by society, they are also clowns, as is the entire cast. As Monn explains, they are “symbolic of the way love makes us act, like clowns.”

The Adventures of Butt Boy and Tigger will run at the Elm Theatre, 220 Julia Street, May 3rd through June 8th, on Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at elmtheatre.org or at the door. Mature audiences only. Crimes Against Nature: A Love Story will run at the AllWays Theatre, 2240 St. Claude Avenue, May 17th through June 3rd, on Fridays, Saturday and Mondays at 8 pm. Friday and Saturday performances are $15. Monday performances are $10 and include food and drink specials. For more info, check out theallwayslounge.net

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