"In Love and Sex"

Three plays offer a fresh, inventive take on these stale topics


Through Feb. 23

Tickets are $20

673-0304 ext. 3


Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F.

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Sex is not original: It's been going on for years. And yet folks just can't seem to get enough of it. But while the subject may lack originality, the work of C.A.F.E. (Combined Art Form Entertainment) certainly does not, which makes the company's latest show -- a fresh take on a stale topic -- somewhat touch-and-go. "In Love and Sex" is a compilation of three plays. The first, Martha Soukup's A Defense of the Social Contracts, propels us into a future world of categorized fornication in which each member of society must register as "open," "nonmonogamous," or in a "partnership" and abide by the rules associated with these classifications. The idea is initially compelling -- very Brave New World-ish -- but lacks character development and goes stale midway into the play. The second piece, Our Story-- adapted from a short tale by Isabel Allende -- is about two people who develop a love that's tied to their shared, war-torn pasts. It's poetic and well acted (by the darkly sensual Paul Santiago and the love-hungry Emily Rosenthal), but it never fully jumps off the page. Erotyka, a creatively conceived montage of female fantasies, is the best of the bunch, telling the disparate stories of a straight businesswoman's hot lesbian fantasy, a few subway riders' too-close-for-comfort underground experiences, and Trina the Trickster's obsession with "rubber bands, spitballs, English lit, and sucking cock." While the plays themselves aren't tremendously strong, C.A.F.E.'s multimedia approach is undoubtedly inventive. With disturbing clips of tortured prisoners (staged, not real), interesting video projections, and a dancing red silk carpet, the visuals add merit to the proceedings; C.A.F.E.'s production is thoroughly original, even if its playbill is not.

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