SEX by Mae West @ UNDER ST. Mark’s
Mae West might best be known as an aging cartoon-like ‘sex kitten’ purring naughty lines of dialogue at much younger male costars (she actually gave Cary Grant his first big break), but at one time the lady was the highest-paid woman in the U.S., starred in, directed, produced and wrote her own movies and films, was arrested for lewdness and was a force to be well considered in 1930’s/40’s Hollywood. Her play SEX was given a ‘staged reading’ down at the theatre UNDER ST. Mark’s as part of the famous Frigid New York festival by The Dirty Blondes group.
With Alan Dronek, Stephen Elrod, Travis Emery, Alexandra Frost, Susannah Jones, and Lauren Riddle, this ‘older’ play was performed under expert blocking direction by Courtney Laine Self for a perfect 85-minutes, retelling the story of a ‘working girl’s’ life and the people in it. The old axiom: “If it’s not on the page it ain’t on the stage” is certainly applicable here as what Mae West wrote, quite a while ago actually, is a great story for the stage even now and in this case, was brought off by talented actors, sometimes even playing multiple parts.
What I especially like about West and was clear in SEX is that she was a woman who was going her own way, at all times, no matter where she might be going or what she might be talking about. A truly independent woman of her time (call her a feminist if you like, I prefer simply considering her a strong-willed creative “person” fearlessly standing up for what she wanted in her life and art) in SEX West explores not just the plight of prostitutes but the question of fate for all her characters trying to live with the choices they make.