Throughout LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed’s (TU) 2015 season, I have been in awe of the company’s daring and exemplary mission to tackle the state of modern gender politics. It comes as no surprise that their annual foray into the Hollywood Fringe Festival (an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community of Los Angeles, CA) would continue to inspire anything less than a phenomenally intriguing performance that delves deeper into the intricately complicated dynamics of 21st century sexual relationships. Using technology as a through line to connect the relationships and roles of several men and women, Theatre Unleashed’s one-act, Sleeping Around, imparts its commentary on today’s approach to intimacy – and the lack thereof – with a snapshot into the lives of those at their most vulnerable moments.
Written by Cesar Abella and directed by Wendy Gough Soroka, Sleeping Around follows nine individuals and the couples in which they find themselves under various circumstances. As each person searches for intimacy, the audience uncovers the interwoven stories of the nine characters and witnesses the humorous, heartrending, and humiliating effects that relationships, sex, and an amalgam of the two can inflict on a person. To unravel the particular situation of each couple would be to spoil the serpentine path that connects each story to the detriment of the audience’s experience. Instead, I will emphasize that this play, while serving as a compelling commentary on how men and women approach sexual relations and relationships in today’s society, is emphatically a character-driven piece that provides a platform for truly incredible performances.
Each one of the nine performers, serving both as actors and as stagehands, should be commended for breathing such exuberant life into the characters, which were written so skillfully by writer Abella. The play, which runs for approximately one hour, allows for only a fraction of time with each character and couple, and yet the depth and weight brought to the performances gave way to realistic and affecting renderings of everyday life. Interestingly, the three performances of note for me were those of returning players to the Theatre Unleashed stage: Sammi Lappin (POPE! An Epic Musical, Boy Gets Girl), Jim Martyka (Boy Gets Girl); and Eric Cire (POPE! An Epic Musical, Boy Gets Girl). These three actors not only executed extraordinarily heartbreaking roles with masterful precision, but – for anyone who has had the pleasure of viewing one of their previous roles with Theatre Unleashed – displayed vast range in their theatrical ability that should not go unnoticed. Lappin, Martyka, and Cire are certainly to be watched with anticipation as their careers continue to unfold.
With so many incredible one-acts taking place throughout the run of this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, it may be challenging to determine which performances to attend. For what my opinion may be worth, based on my experiences with Theatre Unleashed’s 2015 season, I can say with absolute certainty that this show – and any other produced by TU – is well worth your time and deserving of your undivided attention.
The final performances of Sleeping Around at the Hollywood Fringe Festival will be performed this evening and on Thursday, June 25th. Tickets are $10 each and are available online or at the door; however, with the popularity of this show, be sure to purchase your tickets as soon as possible. To learn more about Theatre Unleashed and the remainder of its theatrical season, be sure to visit the official website for further details.