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THEATER REVIEW: “It’s Just Sex” at OnStage Playhouse

Getting ready for guests is stressful enough without finding your husband and a blue-haired hooker in flagrante on the couch when you walk in the door after yoga class.

And when Phil (Randy Coull) says, “We have to talk” and Joan (Rhiannon Jones) responds “Start without me,” you can guess it’s going to be a tense evening of “fun” with friends.

Jeff Gould’s “It’s Just Sex” plays through Aug. 10 at OnStage Playhouse. Jay Mower directs.

The guests are two other couples in various stages of their marriages. Carl (William Parker Shore) and Kelly (Fatima Pimienta) act like newlyweds, unable to keep their hands off each other. Henpecked Greg (William H. Moore) has potency issues with his attorney wife Lisa (Cristyn Chandler), who has a habit of needling him verbally in public.

Tongues loosen as alcohol flows. Joan, still seething with unexpressed rage, suggests a risky game of Truth (hoping to “catch” Phil). This doesn’t elicit the desired confession, and when randy Carl expresses a fantasy about exchanging partners, she readily agrees, with each new couple repairing to the upstairs bedrooms.

So far, it sounds like a sex farce, but hold on: Gould’s second act doesn’t go quite where you might expect. The risky behavior steers each couple into a thoughtful consideration of the real issues for each, and the play moves from sitcom or farce into realism. Nothing will be the same for these six people, and the next chapter is yet to be written.

Shore’s sex-obsessed Carl could be a cardboard character, but for Gould’s careful writing and Shore’s acting suggesting that there is more wisdom here than meets the eye.

Pimienta’s Kelly is the perfect game-for-anything partner for Carl. She’s also a hoot as the first-scene hooker.

Chandler is a standout as Lisa, the intelligent but foolish wife who may have created her own marital problems.

Moore (the only first-time actor in the group) does a fine job as fussbudget Greg.

Jones’ slow-to-burn Joan presents a serene exterior but it’s clear the volcano is rumbling just beneath the surface.

Coull’s Phil, in the doghouse when the play starts, could use a little more variety in facial expression. Phil is afraid to be exposed, but Coull needs a bit more than a glower to carry the character through the show.

Aside from the actors, this production is practically a two-man operation: Mower shows a sure hand as director, but also acts acts as sound and costume designer. And OnStage’s resident lighting designer Chad Oakley is also responsible for the comfortable living-room set.

Is it “just sex” we’re talking about? No, it’s a much for interesting and fundamental problem: communication.

The details

“It’s Just Sex” plays through Aug. 10 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Ave. (near F Street), Chula Vista.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (619) 422-7787 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.