Book and lyrics by Sara-Jeanne Hosie. Music by Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Nico Rhodes. Directed by Donna Spencer. A Firehall Arts Centre presentation. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday, February 20. Continues until March 8
Talking Sex on Sunday is an ambitious new musical from Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Nico Rhodes that’s as big-hearted as it is horny, and as hilarious as it is vulnerable. The premise—a sex-toy party for a long-time group of women friends—might feel a bit dated, but the subject matter is relevant, thanks to existing stigmas around women’s sexuality, and myriad related topics like loneliness, shame, agency, and intimacy.
The show has barely started when Hosie rhymes penis with genius, and it’s an inspired moment that forecasts a lot of the unhinged musical joy in Talking Sex on Sunday, which covers everything from masturbation and Ben Wa balls to role play and G-spots. But Hosie, who wrote the book and lyrics, doesn’t just go for one-note jokes, risqué puns, or flat characters titillated by kegels and dildos.
We feel like we know these women. Margot (Janet Gigliotti) has hosted this unusual group of friends the first Sunday of every month for the past 10 years. She and her husband haven’t had sex in a long time and she wants this party to help her reconnect with her own desires at least, if not revive her love life. There’s also Olivia (Jennifer Lines), Margot’s sister, who has a secret new man in her life; widower Sissy (Irene Karas Loeper); divorced Carol (Caitriona Murphy); young, queer feminist Frankie (Sara Vickruck); and devout book lover June (Katrina Reynolds). Odessa (Seana-Lee Wood) is the sex-toy saleswoman who’s been doing this job for 25 years.
The whole ensemble is deeply talented, and they truly feel like a tight-knit group of friends under Donna Spencer’s direction. There are some standout performers, including Reynolds, who nails a showstopping, tear-jerking solo when June wrestles with her faith and her desires. Vickruck doesn’t get enough to do with Frankie, but she makes the most of every moment and her performance is playfully sexy, charming, and funny. Gigliotti is terrific at conveying the nuances of Margot’s complicated arc as she learns of and copes with significant betrayal.
There are a few rough moments in Talking Sex on Sunday. Sissy’s character feels half-realized, and the conflict between Carol and Frankie is underdeveloped. Some of the songs feel unnecessary or don’t serve enough of a purpose to justify the amount of time they take up in the show.
There’s also an overreliance on euphemisms. I’ll take “clitoris” over “sugared almond” always, and the sex it does talk about is pretty vanilla and pretty heteronormative. But it’s a starting point, and there is a lot to love about Talking Sex on Sunday.
Go see it so that we can start talking freely and healthily about sex every day of the week.