According to Sex Addicts Anonymous, there are over 22 million sex addicts in the United States alone, says the program for the Living Image Arts’ current production, “Hello, My Name Is” showing at the Lion Theatre through Jan. 28.
On its face, this new play, written by Stephanie Rabinowitz, is about a group of sex addicts who meet weekly in an attempt to support each other on their way to sexual sobriety. The play, however, explores not just sex addiction, but addiction as a whole—and to be exact, people’s addiction to addiction and whether it’s a product of narcissism, boredom or both. Indeed, as the play’s main character, Sima De Fleur declares, “Addiction is the new black.”
Rabinowitz has created a mostly believable set of characters, each with his or her own drama developed adequately enough to make the audience care. There is Sima, who fantasizes about her next life as a man—a CPA with two children, a faithful wife, and boring sex. And Johnny DeLucci, who has anonymous meth sex with men but isn’t sure he’s gay. Then there is Myers of Keswick, an effusive scientist prone to neurobiological explanations of the human condition but who can never finish a sentence about his own personal demons.
There is Moody Crisp, a painter who doesn’t paint, crippled by the fear that he won’t paint again, and, as an African American man, despises stereotypes about black men’s sexual prowess. And Faye Davenport, the tightly wound, Connecticut country club “rich girl with no money,” forced to stay with her abusive husband because her father left her no inheritance.
The group’s leader is Pretty Donovan, who leads the discussion and meditation exercises, hands out condoms with different colors to signify length of sexual sobriety (she gets lavender, five years), and who, from the beginning, appears to have no interest in anyone truly making progress. Her personal struggle: chronic masturbation.
And finally, there is Baxter Von Essen, a stranger who bursts in to the meeting to mock each of the participants, particularly Sima. And in a scene both bizarre and perceptive (and somehow out of sequence), he compares their problems to a circus freak show.
Rabinowitz and director Lee Douglass have assembled a capable ensemble, but Jacob Ming-Trent, playing Moody, and Tracy Shar, playing Faye, truly shine. Their characters are the most real, the ones who tap into the most common human conditions—keeping up appearances, striving for perfection, and fear of failure and being alone. As a result, they become the most deserving of the audience’s empathy.
Overall, “Hello, My Name Is” both entertains and poses thoughtful questions, though sometimes too blatantly. Disappointingly, it is littered with sexual puns like “the plot stiffens” that probably seemed clever on the page, but that come across strained and unfunny when spoken aloud.
The play is at its best when the audience learns about each of the characters during captivating monologues under a spotlight. It falters when the characters interact in disjointed dialogue. That may have been Rabinowitz’s point, to show the addicts’ self-absorption. But it often came across as poor acting.
In the end, there are enough plot twists and final revelations that make “Hello, My Name Is” a journey that will enthrall addicts and non-addicts alike.