Review: Ribaldry and Laughs in Matt Murphy’s Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man

I have attended various adult stage productions and midnight movies in Chicago over the years. I was the one who got all of the burlesque shows at my last reviewing gig and I found them to be a lot of fun and not for the prudish. Playwright Matt Murphy has adapted the bestseller by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman—Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man—into the play directed by Tim Drucker at Greenhouse Theater Center. It has been called a cult classic because of its popularity at entertainment hubs in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. Producers Matt Murphy and Shawn Nightingale have brought this show to Chicago hoping that it will become a long-running classic for after dinner and before the bar crawl.

Chicago has a really fine tradition of long-running shows with kitschy themes like Nunsense. We also lit the torch for plays with a schlock bent such as Co-Ed Prison Sluts and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. Someone cue Russ Meyer on the Betamax! Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man has been passed the torch for bachelorette parties and girls’ nights out. This takes place in the environs of a college campus book forum when bespectacled associate college dean, Robyn (Emma Jo Boyden) is called into service as moderator for the book forum when the dean is suspiciously poisoned. The author is Dan (Adam Fane) a high-energy guest with his own audio/visual setup. Yes, the props and visual gags abound.

Boyden is fun in the formulaic role of Robyn, the uptight academic who secretly lusts for her assistant Stefan (Andrew Cawley). In some cities, reality show personalities have played the role of Robyn and Boyden elevates the farce element with a deft performance. Fane creates an amalgam of fabulous diva characters from Mario Cantone on Sex and the City to Karen (Megan Mullally) on Will and Grace. Fane brings the short-fused comic bursts that create a great man-diva. Cawley got some fangirl hoots as sexy Stefan with malaprops and good physical comedy.

Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man program photo.

So, heads up. Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man involves audience participation. Yep—you could be called on to pantomime some raunchy stuff and some of it is blindfolded. There happened to be a bachelorette party sitting next to me and the bride-to-be was called up to the stage. Greenhouse Theater allows you to take your cocktail into the house, which could be a good thing. Men don’t get a pass on audience participation just because the advice is for women. A reluctant husband was good-natured about being put on the spot, and his wife was a good sport when she was called up for a demo on foreplay. I did mention that this is an adult play, so don’t go in thinking this is Marabel Morgan’s Total Woman kind of advice. This goes beyond greeting your husband at the door holding a martini and clad in plastic wrap.

I had a good time and a good laugh, which was sorely needed for these rather dour times, and that is why Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man could catch on in Chicago. It doesn’t have the gritty mania of the shows back in the ’80s or the fantastical disconnect from reality of a farce or satire, but it has heart and can go the distance.

Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man plays on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through July 2nd at the Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $49.95-$79.95. Running time is 75 minutes. For tickets and more information, please visit SexTipsPlay.com. Covid protocols are followed for all performances and areas of the theater. Please bring your vaccine card or a negative PCR test within 72 hours and a picture ID. Kindly wear a mask over your nose and mouth to protect the performers, the audience, and yourself. Keep the good times and bachelorette parties going.

For more information on this and other productions, see www.theatreinchicago.com.

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Kathy D. Hey

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