Wednesday, August 14, 2013

73. Review of MARRIED SEX (August 14, 2013)



There seem to be countless shows available in this year’s New York International Fringe Theatre Festival, but, with all my other theatergoing assignments, I’ve had time to go to only one. And that is Laura Zam’s one-woman piece, MARRIED SEX, on the postage-stamp stage at Jimmy’s No. 43, a funky saloon, on the Lower East Side. This is a remarkably candid piece, not much longer than an hour, in which the wonderfully expressive Ms. Zam tells us that, soon after she got married (in her mid-40s), she discovered that she was unable to enjoy sex with her spouse because of a form of sexual dysfunction diagnosed as vaginismus, possibly related to an experience of sexual abuse she experienced as a child. Of course, this fun-killer has an official Web site if you’re curious, which I was, but Ms. Zam’s show is not an infomercial or documentary, so much as an often hilarious account of what she went through personally to deal with it. This involved seeing various specialists and therapists, each of whom she comically limns, and having “sex brunches” with a group of supportive women who got together to discuss and explore their mutual sexual issues.

Jimmy's No. 43 on E. 7th near 2nd Avenue.

Despite the fundamental seriousness of the problem, Ms. Zam finds just the right way to turn her dilemma into deliciously ribald humor, and, miraculously, manages to do it without becoming gross. Her gifts as a writer are matched by her delicious characterizations of the people she encounters in her quest to solve the mystery of her “shrinking vagina,” often requiring her to switch from role to role in split second, and sometimes side-splitting, transformations, altering her body language and vocal intonations with dizzying rapidity and precision. She does men (including her infinitely patient husband and the charismatic Rabbi Shmuley Boteach—a highlight) and women.

            There are musical interludes, interpretive dance moments, and a hint of audience participation. Ms. Zam is never less than enthusiastic and appealing company, and, though there are a few dry spots here and there, it's very easy to get caught up in her dilemma and even to begin to see the people she's portraying. Spoiler alert: love and swimming conquer all. Touchingly.