By Kathy Flynn
Sell/Buy/Date is utterly brilliant and completely unique, both in terms of performance and in subject matter. Set in the future, Dr. Serene Campbell is a British sociology professor teaching sex history in a post-progressive world. Bio-Emphathetic Resonant Technology or BERT has been used to record the thoughts and feelings of various people affected by the sex industry, starting in 2019 and continuing through the 2040s and beyond. The cultural changes that come about due to the legalization of sex work is documented through the lives of everyday people affected by it.
Tony-winner Sarah Jones, who’s previous play, 2004’s Bridge & Tunnel, was championed by none other than Meryl Streep, channels over a dozen characters during the course of her one-person show. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t normally like one-person shows, don’t let that keep you away. This is not mere impression or narcissistic showiness, but an eerie and uncanny transformation. Race and gender are no barrier, she shifts into each character so effortlessly, that she can seemlessly interrupt herself as someone else. Her physicality is astounding, transforming her body and face as each new character inhabits her body. Her performance is unlike anything you have ever seen, and the standing ovation she received on opening night was hard-earned and well-deserved.
Sarah Jones in Sell/Buy/Date
No matter how you currently feel about sex work and legalization, from prostitution to pornography to “breastaruants” like Hooters, Jones’ feminist thinkpiece will provide food for thought. Issues of consent, agency, and most importantly, value, resonant powerfully in our current political climate.
In spite of the serious subject matter, there is a lot of humor here, particularly when Professor Campbell is giving historical insight into our generation. A lot has changed since 2019, a time when people were limited by gender and ethnicity. The most hilarious and yet on-the-nose line of the night comes when Campbell asks her class what male sluts of the period were called….the answer, of course, is men.
The most impressive thing about Sell/Buy/Date may be that the performances and the story are equally fascinating. Jones has something very important to say, and an irresistible manner of storytelling in which to get the message across. This is theatre at its most vital and compelling
Sell/Buy/Date is written and performed by Sarah Jones and directed by Carolyn Cantor.
Sell/Buy/Date runs through Nov 3 at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre, 1125 N McCadden Place, Hollywood CA 90038.