Fuse a musical theater belt with the howl of a rock star. Bask in catchy melodies that go all out. Simmer deep in the awkwardness, shame, trauma, and trembling hope that sex inspires, then drag on some more. Build a small world inside; see if that changes the lights to an icy blue of fear or a steaming red of rage. Perhaps the denizens of this world will ditch their cozy neutrals for skin-tight leather, boots, and a riding crop. Perhaps their inner voices will swirl in panic and then leave the humans alone, more naked than they have ever been before.
That’s the recipe for dynamite behind Rachel Lark’s “Coming Soon,” the world’s first musical that premiered Friday, April 22 at Z Space. It’s a must-have, especially for two groups that don’t seem to have much overlap: first, heterosexual couples who find it difficult to talk about sex or achieve female pleasure; second, the kink, poly, and sex-positive communities, who are portrayed here with authenticity and integrity, without the kind of sneering immaturity that mainstream theater typically subjects them to.
“Coming Soon,” directed by Rachel Dart, follows a sexual Stone Age couple: Mark (Matt Herrero) is completely vanilla, completely missionary satisfied, and completely in love. Maggie (Lark) fakes her orgasms because her executed pleasure helps Mark climax. Eight years later, as Mark seeks to take their relationship to the next level, Maggie’s sex life flashes before his eyes: is she doomed to sex as a chore?
As Maggie embarks on a vibrator tour, an introductory dominatrix role-play, a quasi-yoga class focused on vagina connection (man-led, hilariously) and polyamory, the show externalizes his restless conscience by giving him two inner voices – the adventurous Andy (Abigail Esfira Campbell) and the empathetic and analytical Leslie (Deanalís Resto). If that setup breaks down at times, turning into cornball jokes or conveniently telling a story, Q&A-style, Campbell and Resto more than make up for it by fleshing out their characters. Andy and Leslie are a pair of demon and angel shoulders with their own rapport, their own arcs, their own desires.
In a brilliant move, Mark finally gets an inner voice, too, in the form of a barking football player (Michael Martinez) wearing a jersey that reads “Team Mark” (Jorge R. Hernandez did the costumes on point). ). When the human lovers, their identifying voices, and a unicorn (Heather Mae Steffen) — in a trio, the addition to a pre-existing heterosexual couple — all together ping-pong around the stage, the result is both thunderous and incisive. . Everyone except the unicorn is at the edge of a cliff; everyone could fall, jump, fly or lose everything. This, says “Coming Soon,” is how impoverished and oppressive the mainstream discourse on sex is: being confronted with one small step out of bland heteronormativity sends us into a panic and loses all grip on who we are. .
If “Coming Soon” relies on a rote and then carefully resolved explanation of trauma to explain how Maggie came to adulthood without having an orgasm, the episode is nonetheless an apt reminder of how terror and humiliation are gendered for so many of us, especially women. And “Coming Soon” is also full of wisdom that’s far less predictable: Pleasure isn’t just superficial pleasure. It “also protects us,” says Leslie.
There’s also wisdom in the heart-, wit- and gut-filled performances from the cast and six-person band under the musical direction of Katie Coleman. Campbell has the voice of a seraph. Resto, who uses all the pronouns, sings like their own souls are almost too much for them to bear. The lark is burning. When she and Herrero sing an early duet with the lyrics “You’re trying to write a love song,” the pair’s desperate attempt to connect through their disconnect perfectly encapsulates what’s at stake on the show and for all of us. : what happens when you love someone? fully but not madly?
Editor’s Note: The title of this story has been updated to reflect that Z Space did not produce “Coming Soon”.
NOT“Coming”: Written by Rachel Lark. Directed by Rachel Dart. Until April 30. One hour and 55 minutes. $25 to $69. Space Z, 450 Florida St., SF 415-626-0453. www.zspace.org