Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review: (Sex) Cult: A Musical (S)explosion is a Sweet Story at Heart

Who: Becka Jay & Leete Stetson
What: (Sex) Cult: A Musical (S)explosion
Where: Theatre Aquarius Studio (190 King William Street)
When: July 18-28, various dates & times (as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival

During the Hamilton Fringe’s preview night, all productions are invited to make a ninety-second presentation to the audience to promote their show. Ninety-seconds to speak about or perform an excerpt from a production is a challenge, and one that several performers expressed their frustration about as its difficult to condense a sixty-minute play and its complex themes into such a small time frame. Becka Jay and Leete Stetson opted to creatively verbalize this frustration musically during their preview window with a song entitled “This is Bullshit.”

In doing so, they effectively previewed their new musical, (Sex) Cult: A Musical (S)explosion, which is full of equally silly and entertaining songs. While the title may imply the show carries a certain level of raunchiness, the premise is relatively clean. Best friends Lexi and Brandon are unhappy with their lives and have formed a cult to protect themselves from love that they are unable to obtain. For Brandon, this is the approval and love of his father. For Lexi, this is physical love from partners that are generally unobtainable. The audience joins them during a worship service, where the two share parables, and sing songs that reflect on themes of finding approval, seeking love, and a song that openly wonders about the internal organ placement of a centaur.

The story is well-written, with a strong focus on the characters, their motivations and how this manifests itself throughout the service. Both Lexi and Brandon emerge as frail and vulnerable, and the script and direction draw a clear line for the audience to establish how they have arrived through their individual circumstances to their current point of desperation. Despite the potential for this storyline to establish a gloomy overtone for the show, the writing, pacing and chemistry of Becka Jay (Lexi) and Leete Stetson (Brandon) keep the story comedic and light. The story maintains a logical progression and by the end of the fifty-minutes, arrives at a fun resolution that is satisfying for both the characters and audience.

(Sex) Cult features ten songs, with the majority (if not all) of them being rearrangements of familiar music, which are sung and accompanied live onstage by the two characters. While both Jay and Stetson are strong performers and good singers, their chemistry is really what makes this show entertaining. The characters are, at times, in close physical contact, and a high level of trust between the two is necessary (and obvious) to maintain the show’s energy and momentum. 

Although the title of (Sex) Cult may imply that the content of the show will be cringe-inducingly raunchy, I was surprised that most of the explicit content is merely suggestive. There is mature language throughout the show, but Jay and Stetson have taken care so that none of it, and little of the explicit content feels gratuitous. Instead, we are left with a well-told story by two capable actors that is simply a relatable search of looking for love and finding acceptance.

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