The second best way to spend two hours in the dark.
What if the person you were dating asked to reenact your combined sexual histories— with each other and on each other. From backseat blowjobs and adolescent fumblings to buried traumas and wild one night stands. That’s the premise of playwright Kirk Lynn’s new play Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra, running Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. It’s the only time you’re likely to sit in a dark room with a hundred strangers, knowing everyone is mentally revisiting the ghosts of sex-lives past.
The play starts, naturally enough, with a blindfolded man down on his knees, his lover playfully taunting him with commands as he crawls around her bedroom floor. By the end of the scene, Reggie (DILF-y Chris Stack) is down to his underwear, groping around to find the ring in his coat pocket. He proposes to Carla (a beautiful Zoë Sophia Garcia), and she accepts on one condition: They complete the aforementioned carnal play-by-play in the year leading up to marriage.
You might expect a formulaic slew of sordid encounters to follow — and yes, there was that one time that Carla took it from a strap-on in college (so we get the whole role reversal thing out of the way upfront). But it’s clear from the start that Reggie and Carla’s cataloguing of physical acts is an attempt to achieve something closer to total intimacy, and Lynn’s play questions, in many ways, what that might mean.
“The characters come to realize that sexuality is, in some ways, a distraction to intimacy — or the spectacle of it rather than actual intimacy,” Lynn tells us.
Scenes of Reggie and Carla’s relationship (set in the mid-‘90s) are intercut with present day incidents involving their teenage daughter Bernie (Ismenia Mendes) and two other teen boys — one of whom becomes her love interest and the other a sexual predator.
For Lynn, the play grew from its premise of two lovers exposing their sexual pasts into a generational story when his daughter was born during his process of writing. “Suddenly what sex means to me, and thinking about talking about sex with my daughter was fascinating,” Lynn says.
The latter half of his play takes on a familiar battle between father and daughter — to be heard and understood by each other — as another, different sort of grappling for intimacy. Facing his demons and opening up to Carla is practice for the struggle, but for Reggie breaking through to his teenage girl is a completely different battle.
“People say crazy shit to the father of a daughter, men and women both expressed to me that when my daughter was a teenager I should want to lock her up,” Lynne says. While Lynn wonders whether or not he’ll come around to that idea when his daughter reaches adolescence, for now he doesn’t agree. “I just want her to be healthy, I hope that she has as happy and as healthy a sexual life as I’ve had — if that’s weird to say.”
Though from the darker undercurrents running through his play, Lynn seems to understand that very little about sex is ever quite so simple, though it continues to be an important part of how we discover each other, physically and otherwise.
Images via Jeremy Daniel.