XXX Love Act

What the client was looking for:
An internal newsletter article exploring the director’s passion for the play.
Written in a relaxed, humorous style.
Industry: Entertainment

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“XXX Love Act” and The Seduction Of Chris Nelson

Language is sexy.   Honesty, sexy.    The complex inner depths of human nature, sexy.   These are the elements of Cintra Wilson’s play, “XXX Love Act” that director Chris Nelson claims drew him to the piece.   Not that the characters are porn stars, wearing provocative clothing and bed-hopping.   No, it’s what they’re saying and how they’re saying it that gets Chris drooling.   Their choices are seductive.   So he says.   But c’mon, the story and writing of a play called “XXX Love Act” with a postcard of a half-naked female devil is what generates his passion? Explain, please.

“I’m telling you, it’s a bad idea…”   “So I asked her out…”   “What’s up with that?”   These are the kinds of words we might hear in the local bar or coffee house, depending on your particular preference.  But for Chris, to hear everyday language onstage is, in a word, boring.   Theatrical language, however – language that is not tied to a naturalistic way of speech – is not only fun to say and has striking imagery, it actually makes us listen.   And hits us in a deeper, more subconscious place.   Much like music.

So when Chris first read the script, you could say it sang to him.   Even though the pages were in great disarray from failed editing, the language still reeled him in.   It was roughly musical and unflinchingly honest.   And funny.   And theatrical.   “He has his fist somewhere up the large intestine of this mammalian idea and he’s saying, Hey! Come on in you guys, there’s room for everybody!” The language rolled around the tongue like a decadent piece of chocolate fudge.   Might we even say, sensuously? Which fits, really.   If the story stimulates in its exploration of basic human desires, shouldn’t the language tantalize as well?

Okay, so the characters don’t talk like Will and Grace or your mother.   I concede that the language, so different from the way we usually speak might get my attention.   But so will half-naked actors.   Aren’t we just going to watch them, well, romp?

No, says Chris.   Anyone familiar with Cintra Wilson’s essays (on Salon.com or her collection “A Massive Swelling” among others) knows that although she’s provocative, she also expertly cuts to the bone of human nature, forcing her audience to look at themselves without painkillers.   She isn’t afraid to tell her readers “this is who we are and I have proof.”  So it is in “XXX”, one of her few plays, all unpublished.   Exploring the issues of love, sexuality, desire, shame and greed, the play raises lots of questions.   Here are just a few, according to Chris: “What is the impact of pornography on our culture? How do we as human beings deal with our sexual impulses? How do we connect as human beings? What are our choices and why do we make them? The one real valuable commodity we have is that of human relationships with other people and love with other people.   And we screw that up because of the choices we make for other things that our culture tells us are important. ”

Wow.  That is a lot to think about.  Maybe after the show I can discuss it over a drink with someone I find attractive.  But still…uh…dude, like, are there naked people onstage or not? No ma’am, says Chris.  In fact, one of the reasons Wilson didn’t want to release the rights to “XXX” was because previous directors (mostly male) focused on the porn aspect, while ignoring the humor and humanity.  The story was lost, the characters’ choices and the repercussions of those choices lost and the whole darn point undone.  Except for the fact that by exploiting the nudity, the directors themselves personified the very problem of turning sex from a loving act into a commodity.  Not that the audience noticed.  They were too busy watching the naked people.  Wilson was not interested in swirling around that vicious circle again.

Chris to the rescue.  With 10 years of New York theatre under his belt (no euphemism intended), including designing, directing, stage managing, and literary analysis, Chris is very familiar with story and playwriting, especially with unpublished and original work.  (Prestigious credits include Production Supervisor and Technical Director for The Actor’s Studio. ) First, he re-worked the script (not re-write, he stresses) structurally, moving scenes and changing the placement of the intermission.  Then he did a successful workshop production in New York City that sold out almost every evening.  When it came time to approach Wilson about securing the rights for a full production at COA, he sold her on language, honesty, humor and story (and his extensive experience in the NY theatre, no doubt, to fill her gap in the medium).  Not nudity.  The result? The play is sexy without being sexist.  Funny without being stupid.  The story carries throughout the play, exploring each character’s nature, their choices and the consequences thereof.  How could Wilson resist? She agreed to the rights, sight unseen, and also looks forward to having a finished, clean, working script.  Finally.

Now those of you starting to feel silly, you are not alone.  I, too, made the assumption that a postcard with a half-naked female devil on it was going to be pretty light on the mind.  Plenty of flesh, please, hold the brain-work.  But that seems to be the brilliance of this show and the marketing of it.  Like Wilson, the play and the postcard/website strike immediately to the gut (or a little lower), stimulating our basic human desires and then, once we’re in it’s delectable clutches, sits us down, ties us up and makes us really listen.  To a story about love, relationships, core human nature and how we could @&*#! them all up if we’re not careful.

“Go see it,” invites Chris.  “It’s funny and it’s sexy and will raise issues that are in fact, fundamental. ” And bring a date.  You never know what part of him/her might become aroused.  Might even be somewhere above the neck.