The dramatic comedy, written by English playwright Bathsheba Doran and set in Atlanta, explores the friendship between Charlotte and Jonny, who have been best friends since they were 9. She’s Jewish; he’s Christian. He’s black; she’s white. Their differences intensify their connection until desire complicates everything in a surprising way.
The play, which contains full nudity, is making its Southeastern premiere with its run Feb. 1 to 18. Director Amber Bradshaw spoke to the AJT about the show.
AJT: What is the significance of setting this play in Atlanta?
Bradshaw: I love the specificity of placing the story in Atlanta, and I think it’s really interesting because the playwright is English, and she set a play in a city that she’s never lived in and maybe has never been to. I imagine that the characters are in Decatur. There’s a black family that’s been living in this house for four generations, and there’s a Jewish family that moves in next door. The Jewish family isn’t religious, but they are very Jewish in life.
AJT: What made you so interested in this play?
Bradshaw: The casual nature of the prejudice in this play and how familiar it was to me. If there is anything that people need to understand right now, it’s that. There is nothing simple or uncomplicated about prejudice or bias. We all have to look at it in order to change it.
AJT: What would you say this play is really about?
Bradshaw: The play is really about different ways we love and different ways we connect with people. There’s a lot about the parents and their struggle as well. The wife is not Jewish, and the father is. The father is from New York, and the wife is from Atlanta. So you have a lot of cultural distinctions there as well. It hits on casual racism, sexism and homophobia in a way I’ve never seen a play do. It also hits on anti-Semitism in a way I’ve never seen.
AJT: What role does the family being Jewish play in this story?
Bradshaw: Well, Bathsheba Doran is Jewish, so I think that’s important, but also I think she’s really trying to home in on the nature of religion vs. culture and how they are different. For her, the complication of how to connect when you are Jewish and Christian is a big abyss. The fact that this is a Christian country in which people of all ethnicities, cultures and religions live is something that I think Americans need to be reminded of.
AJT: Was it difficult to cast this play?
Bradshaw: When I was casting, it was hard to find actors who understood the nuances of the cultural references. It was very difficult. I spent a long time finding the right people, and what I mean by that is people who had some sort of experience with Jewish culture in some way. I wanted to find people who would be truthful to the script and not play a Jew or play a gay character. In the theater world, we call that gay face or Jew face.
AJT: This play was written with full nudity. Why was it important to keep that in your version?
Bradshaw: I can’t totally reveal why it’s there because that’s part of the mystery of the play. But I think when there is full nudity in a play, it’s kind of an example of what it means to be vulnerable. That is the ultimate vulnerability.
AJT: What would you say to someone who is considering coming to the play?
Bradshaw: It’s a great date play. It’s a great friends play. Don’t bring your teenagers ’cause it’s a little R-rated, but it’s a fun and funny play, and it’s beautifully touching. It should be an entertaining and fun night out.
What: “The Mystery of Love and Sex”
When: Thursdays to Sundays, through Feb. 18
Where: Out Front Theatre Company, 999 Brady Ave., West Midtown
Tickets: Students $20, adults $25; outfronttheatre.com