Reviews - Fringe 2017

Unoriginal Sin

By Daniel O.W. Smith
Published July 24, 2016

I've never watched much Sex and the City, so maybe it's unwise to bring it up. But an internet search for "unoriginal sin" shows that a 2002 episode of the show was titled just that.

I have no idea whether Sex and the City served as inspiration for this Unoriginal Sin, but the IMDB summary of the episode "Unoriginal Sin" shows that it concerns one character's forgiveness for another's infidelity, rationalizing that it was "only sex."

This casual characterization of intercourse pops up several times in Unoriginal Sin, and for the most part an "only sex" philosophy is the pivotal focus of the play. Is there such a thing as "only sex"? What does it, or should it, mean outside of the physical act?

The question is explored in the contemporary context of technology that has fragmented and distorted our social relations, leaving many of us lonely and confused about how to achieve satisfying intimate relationships, whether sexual or platonic.

The same tools which seem alternately to pull us together and rip us apart serve an additional purpose, as a conduit for commercial messages which both pressure us to act in particular ways and shape our understanding of social and sexual relations.

Unoriginal Sin seems to pin the mass schizophrenia over sex and love at least in part on the role of advertising, though history shows that the human mind has long had a penchant for maintaining contradictory attitudes about sex simultaneously.

To a certain extent, the play, while often earnest and thoughtful in its exploration, falls into this same trap. The meaning of sex is explored, from a few different dominant perspectives, but falls somewhat short in terms of depth and subtlety.

The cast is conspicuously thin and unapologetically beautiful, and dances, writhes, and locks lips in various states of undress, raising the question as to whether this is a sincere examination of contemporary sexuality, or a rather less thoughtful form of exhibitionism.

In trying to both portray and critique sexual expectations and stereotypes - a difficult task - Unoriginal Sin seems to reinforce at least some of them.

Lofty ideas aside, there's no doubt it's a well-orchestrated, well-paced, and well-acted piece of stagecraft. To be fair, the cast members themselves can't be faulted for their good looks, and for the most part they portray truly convincing and sympathetic personalities.

Altogether it's a bit more sitcom than philosophy lecture, but in the end that's probably a good thing.

Daniel O.W. Smith is a writer and editor who lives in Hamilton and comes from Maine. Feel free to get in touch via email.

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