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The Mystery of Love and Sex at Diversionary Theatre

Go for a laugh

John W. Wells III and Rachael VanWormer
John W. Wells III and Rachael VanWormer

An exceptional cast, snappy writing, and polished production elements bring to life the complicated nature of interpersonal relationships between family and friends in Bathsheba Doran’s The Mystery of Love and Sex.

The Mystery of Love and Sex

The play follows four people: Charlotte, her parents Howard and Lucinda, and her best friend Jonny. We first meet them when Charlotte and Jonny live together in college. As their lives progress toward Charlotte’s wedding day we learn more and more. Charlotte and Jonny both struggle to understand their sexuality and how it affects their relationship. Lucinda and Howard maintain a marriage for the sake of their emotionally fragile daughter, which leads to substance abuse and resentment. Over many years and several confessions, ties between these individuals fracture and heal in ways that make their connections to each other different but stronger.

Rachael VanWormer plays emotionally volatile Charlotte with grace and confidence. While her physical portrayal of Charlotte at different ages sometimes appears forced, VanWormer bravely journeys the emotional arc of a girl struggling with everything from confronting her sexuality to dealing with the marital problems of her parents.

John W. Wells III charms as Jonny. His soft vocal delivery and modest physicality captures the essence of a boy confused and scared to confront truths. Wells indicates the aging of his character over many years through vocalized confidence reflective of his becoming a professor, which seems right for Jonny.

Marci Anne Wuebben shines as Southern-born Lucinda. Wuebben’s comic timing with both jokes and physical humor energizes the production from start to finish, which in turn highlights her moments of tenderness. She captures the essence of the modern mother: striving to provide happiness to her children, even at the expense of her own opinions and desires. If you need one reason to see this show, go for a laugh from Wuebben.

Mike Sears portrays the bombastic, often unlikeable father figure, Howard, who provides an abundance of conflict for those around him. Sears balances Howard’s middle-aged selfishness and with unwavering love for his family beautifully, to the point where the audience — just as the other characters — forgives his flaws.

This production exemplifies how well-thought-out design not only supports a production but also enhances it. Sean Fanning’s set design gradually builds in scale during Act One from literal and intimate to suggestive and expansive, then moves backward visually in the second half only to jump back to suggestive/expansive for the play’s conclusion: a stunning visual journey. Charming costumes by Elisa Benzoni allow us to see the aging of these people clearly and appropriately.

Bathsheba Doran’s sharp script provides relevance to important topics both contemporary and timeless, like love and sex. The Mystery of Love and Sex stands out as a refreshing burst of theatrical life not often witnessed, in San Diego or anywhere, and the team at Diversionary rises to the occasion to create an exceptionally entertaining and uplifting evening at the theater.

Playing through December 24

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John W. Wells III and Rachael VanWormer
John W. Wells III and Rachael VanWormer

An exceptional cast, snappy writing, and polished production elements bring to life the complicated nature of interpersonal relationships between family and friends in Bathsheba Doran’s The Mystery of Love and Sex.

The Mystery of Love and Sex

The play follows four people: Charlotte, her parents Howard and Lucinda, and her best friend Jonny. We first meet them when Charlotte and Jonny live together in college. As their lives progress toward Charlotte’s wedding day we learn more and more. Charlotte and Jonny both struggle to understand their sexuality and how it affects their relationship. Lucinda and Howard maintain a marriage for the sake of their emotionally fragile daughter, which leads to substance abuse and resentment. Over many years and several confessions, ties between these individuals fracture and heal in ways that make their connections to each other different but stronger.

Rachael VanWormer plays emotionally volatile Charlotte with grace and confidence. While her physical portrayal of Charlotte at different ages sometimes appears forced, VanWormer bravely journeys the emotional arc of a girl struggling with everything from confronting her sexuality to dealing with the marital problems of her parents.

John W. Wells III charms as Jonny. His soft vocal delivery and modest physicality captures the essence of a boy confused and scared to confront truths. Wells indicates the aging of his character over many years through vocalized confidence reflective of his becoming a professor, which seems right for Jonny.

Marci Anne Wuebben shines as Southern-born Lucinda. Wuebben’s comic timing with both jokes and physical humor energizes the production from start to finish, which in turn highlights her moments of tenderness. She captures the essence of the modern mother: striving to provide happiness to her children, even at the expense of her own opinions and desires. If you need one reason to see this show, go for a laugh from Wuebben.

Mike Sears portrays the bombastic, often unlikeable father figure, Howard, who provides an abundance of conflict for those around him. Sears balances Howard’s middle-aged selfishness and with unwavering love for his family beautifully, to the point where the audience — just as the other characters — forgives his flaws.

This production exemplifies how well-thought-out design not only supports a production but also enhances it. Sean Fanning’s set design gradually builds in scale during Act One from literal and intimate to suggestive and expansive, then moves backward visually in the second half only to jump back to suggestive/expansive for the play’s conclusion: a stunning visual journey. Charming costumes by Elisa Benzoni allow us to see the aging of these people clearly and appropriately.

Bathsheba Doran’s sharp script provides relevance to important topics both contemporary and timeless, like love and sex. The Mystery of Love and Sex stands out as a refreshing burst of theatrical life not often witnessed, in San Diego or anywhere, and the team at Diversionary rises to the occasion to create an exceptionally entertaining and uplifting evening at the theater.

Playing through December 24

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