Bridge Street Theatre’s “Sexual Misconduct…” is a Small Miracle
A man is furiously typing away at his laptop as “Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes” opens and he slams the lid down in disgust and extreme agitation. He tells us in very funny, painfully self-conscious direct addresses that he is Jon Macklem, acclaimed author and professor whose third wife is separating from him, he is locked out of the faculty bathroom, he is behind on grading papers and he is striving to hit a deadline with his historical lumberjacks-in-love novel and…there is a beautiful student in a red coat who he can’t stop thinking about. No wonder he is crawling out of his skin.
Bridge Street Theatre is very proud to be producing the U.S premiere of this play by Hannah Moscovitch, which won Canada’s 2021 Governor General’s Award for English-language drama. Christopher Patrick Mullen makes a sensational return to BST after playing Jamie Tyrone last Fall, Abby Burris (a recent Purchase graduate) makes her professional debut as Annie, the student in the red coat, and Margo Whitcomb makes her directorial debut at BST. “Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes” is a triumph for all involved, compelling you to empathize with flawed characters behaving badly and blessing you with the grace of superb artistry.
Macklem controls the narration for the first several scenes of the play and Mullen is beside himself as he narrates his downfall. He physically illustrates, twisting his body and face, verbally accentuating self-lacerating observations as he tells us of the young woman who lives next door and sits in the front row of his lectures, gazing awestruck at him. She is Annie, and she stops by his porch to say “Hi” after he spends one afternoon alternately writing and gazing into her window. He tells her there is only one choice at this point – for her to come inside or leave the porch. They go inside.
Annie once asked her mother what’s the difference between love and admiration. “I don’t admire your father,” her mother replied.
There are many moments when the professor has crossed the line. He knows it, the audience knows it, and we watch Mullen react, agonized by his actions, as he tells us what they are. It is a perfect part for Mullen and his performance is mesmerizing with its quickness, depth and power. There is a queasy dance of dread through the main action of the play…until he rents a hotel room for a tryst.
It is at this point, with the acknowledgement that their relationship is beyond the pale and something to be hidden, that Burris wrests away the focus of the story from the man telling of his abuse of his power over her. Moscovitch’s brilliant sleight of hand miraculously carries the evening’s conclusion home, and we leave satisfied with the denouement. Burris is captivating in her final scenes.
There are very clever small set pieces that are whisked on and off the pitch black stage. The set and lights are by John Sowle, and the costumes are by Michelle Rogers, but the story is king at Bridge Street, and once again they have chosen one with the most compelling characters desperate for connection and reaching out in the most intimate way. “Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes” is a small miracle of a play that will leave you amazed.
Through 10/23 @ Bridge Street Theatre