Theatre Review: ‘The Flower Room’ at Actor’s Express

Matthew Busch, Joshua Quinn, Stacy Melich, and Eliana Marianes in “The Flower Room.” (Photo by Christopher Bartelski)

Actor’s Express is presenting Daryl Lisa Fazio’s wacky little sex comedy “The Flower Room,” directed by Melissa Foulger, running through May 13.

When I say “little,” I do not mean that in any pejorative way. On the contrary, there is so much “sturm und drang” these days about practically everything, including sexual politics, that for me this lighthearted frolic, played in a breezy 80 minutes, comes as a breath of fresh air.

Ingrid (Stacy Melich) is a college professor of sex anthropology who’s lost her job for vague reasons (probably a skittish Board of Trustees) and is currently ensconced in her stylish apartment (thank you, scenic designer Kristina White) and like much of the world, looking for love.

Love can be had in the person of Ingrid’s ex-student Miles (Joshua Quinn), who has a major crush on her and has virtually camped out on her doorstep. Miles—cute, sweet, full of child-like self-love—does not know the meaning of “no”; he’s probably never known rejection in his life. He’s a stitch.

Meanwhile, Ingrid’s brother Anthony (Matthew Busch) has hatched a plan for Ingrid, out of work, to earn big bucks: write some high-class literary erotica for a popular website. It would seem a good idea; but Ingrid actually has very little sexual history of her own to draw on. The solution: conversations with the ever-eager Miles about his own sexual past, which he is only too willing to share with his uber-crush. It all works, basically; Ingrid’s stuff sells. (Have I mentioned that she discovers the erotic delights of expresso? It turns her into a x-rated writing machine.)

Into the scene comes a sexually eager young woman named Cherry (Eliana Marianes), whose presence seems to throw everybody for a loop. Here I must desist, for I cannot be a spoiler of the epiphanies to come. I can, however, tell you that there is sexual frankness and some nudity in the show; if that’s a problem, you cannot now plead ignorance.

The show is very well-acted. Ms. Melich brings an almost manic comic edge to her character, and it works. Mr. Quinn is delightful as Miles, with a well-nigh irresistible smile to boot. Mr. Busch’s dutiful brother Anthony is earnest, eager to help, and has a few surprises of his own. At one point, he says to Ingrid something like “You know, we’ve been suppressed from birth.” And Ms. Marianes’s Cherry makes it her business to lighten everyone’s load; “guilt” doesn’t exist for her.

Stacy Melich and Eliana Marianes in “The Flower Room.” (Photo by Casey Gardner)

Ms. Foulger has directed some of my favorite shows at the Express and elsewhere, such as “Wolves,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” “Good Boys and True,” “Les Liasisons Dangereuses,” and others.

“The Flower Room” is probably not her greatest challenge, but civilians (non-actors) seldom know that performing comedy well is usually more difficult than a straight drama. It looks so easy, right?

I think the play is supposed to be a sort of celebration of female sexuality; and while I won’t argue with that, I was too busy laughing to notice much profundity along those lines. I believe the play has an all-female design team. Again, kudos to all four winsome actors.

My companion for the evening told me that he didn’t see much depth in the work and that it came close to being a waste of time. I completely disagree. I hope I don’t get to the point in my life where I can’t enjoy a well-acted, well-intended sexual farce, built for fun. Life is too short for heavy drama all the time. As my late cousin used to tell me, “Just relax!”

For tickets and information, visit actors-express.com.

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