A sextet refers to a grouping of six people or things. Usually, it is a group of people playing music together. In Sextet a comedy by Morris Panych, put on by Verb Theatre, a group of six people play in an orchestra together and are brought together, and torn apart in more ways than one. They are staying together in a motel and as desires, love, and sex all collide, the orchestra discovers what it means to be human.
The play tells of Harry (Paul Welch) the narrator of the story, saying that this is his last tour and they arrived early to their motel as they heard a blizzard was coming. Harry is the only gay man of the group, and everyone seems to know that except for Dirk (Tenaj Williams) who invited him to stay in his room. Harry would much rather stay with Sylvia (Lara Schmitz), who he doesn’t realize is in love with him. Then there is the triangle between married couple Mavis (Anna Cummer) and Gerard (Curt McKinstry) who have an open marriage and Otto (Stafford Perry) who is in love with Mavis.
Panych’s words and narrative is clever and witty, and the ensemble on stage exude his words. Perry always seems to have a stance, shoulders back, head up, as Otto is driven by his past. Welch is jumpy and ultimately wants to be an unrequited person. Cummer plays Mavis in all her manipulation. McKinstry is slimy as Gerard, as he should be and Williams is mostly in love with his reflection as Dirk.
Overall, Panych’s characters are over the top. They are highly sexualized and are always either talking about sex or talking about how sex affects their lives. Dunston’s staging and direction are a little distracting. Scenes don’t black out so it is a little hard to focus on the action in a particular scene, especially when actors don’t freeze when their scene is over. It’s all set in s small space at the Big Secret Theatre and the action feels a little all over the place.
Sextet is funny. The characters are exploring what it means to be human, what elevates them from the rest. The characters are over the top, are caricatures, and sometimes that doesn’t work, especially when the dialogue is a bit too zippy and unreal. Throw in orchestral music and Sextet is a sex farce with some genuine moments of vulnerability. But most of the time the balance seems a bit off.
Verb Theatre’s Sextet runs until April 15. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Rob Galbraith