‘American Sexy’: Children of the Porn

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If you’re going to be in New York between now and Feb. 22 and you’re in the mood for some really adventurous theater, you should plan a stop at The Flea Theater for its current New Play Series production of “American Sexy” by Trista Baldwin.

Baldwin examines the way that the pornification of America — via widely available hard core Internet porn, sex-tinged advertisements and the ‘sexting’ of explicit photos between friends via cell phone technology — has changed male-female relationships, particularly among college-age young people.

“American Sexy” seems up to the minute in the way that it ties in with the recent Brett Favre cell-phone pic scandal, the uproar over MTV’s “Skins,” and last week’s New York magazine cover story on porn’s huge impact on sex and romance in America.

Baldwin follows four college students on a road trip stop at the Grand Canyon — Lexi (Satomi Blair, above left), Andy (Scott Morse, below right), Jessica (Nicky Schmidlein, above right) and Darren (Ron Washington).

Jessica is trying to get a relationship going with Darren, but Lexi seems to have a problem with her best friend hooking up with this guy.

Lexi teases and taunts Darren with the suggestion that she and her best friend have a sexual thing going between them (an idea that clearly turns Darren on — at first).

Andy is the driver who has a crush on Lexi and believes there is a warm and loving young woman underneath the tough, sexy/confrontational surface.

“American Sexy” shows us how the young men are both turned on and repulsed by porn imagery — they are addicted to the roughest Internet and cell phone sex pics and video, but semi-disgusted by the idea of any real woman they know doing the things they see in porn.

The young women are just as influenced by the porn culture as the men, acting out over-the-top sex scenes (left) that were designed by pornographers to be viewed by men in isolation, rather than as ways smart and independent women would behave in “real” life.

Baldwin takes us deep into the post-sexual revolution, post-porn wilderness where the sexual pop culture makes men and women alike feel inadequate.

The most unsettling section of the New York magazine feature on pornography was about the way that young men are finding it tougher to be aroused by the real women in their lives after immersing themselves in porn fantasies day after day.

Darren pretends to be much more open about sex than Andy but when he finds out that Jessica was involved in some sort of dorm/frat house orgy and that a cell phone video was made and sent all over campus, he is angered and repulsed.

Baldwin manages to deal with a startling number of contemporary relationship issues without ever making “American Sexy” feel like a thesis play.

The high quality of the writing is matched by the performances of the four actors, who are members of The Flea Theater’s resident acting company, The Bats. Director Mia Walker has done a spectacular job with the text and the ensemble.

The fact that actors this young are so fearless and so skilled bodes well for their future careers — there was not a false moment during the 90-minute, intermission-less drama.

(The Flea Theater is at 41 White St in Manhattan. For more information on “American Sexy” go to www.theflea.org. The photos used here were taken by Dan Applegate.)

Joe Meyers

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