Los Angeles Theater Review: Sexsting (Skylight)
by Mia Bonadonna on February 26, 2013
CYBER SEEDINESS, FBI BUREAUCRACY, AND TABOO MONSTROSITY COME TO VIVID LIFE IN SEXSTING
Written in collaboration with Internet crime attorney Susan Raffanti, Doris Baizley’s boundary-blurring examination of entrapment ethics depicts the undercover Internet chat room exchanges of an FBI investigator. Working under reactionary bureaucratic top-down pressure, the agent’s modus operandi is the explicit entrapment of pedophiles. At Skylight Theatre, Katselas Theatre Company’s production of Sexsting offers smooth direction, intense acting, and an abundance of ethical quandaries to ponder post-show.
On the surface, Sexsting is a moral examination of the criminal entrapment of pedophiles seen through a framework of technology and modern commentary; but at heart, this stage work is simply a mirror that illustrates the capacity for guilt and monstrosity that lies within us all. Although there is no doubt from the outset as to where Sexsting’s plot is headed, Baizley creates a near-perfect story with several defining elements craftily woven together to foster constant and complete character development that is exceptionally engaging. The uniquely constructed narrative via chat room banter and Internet slang incorporates dialogue which demonstrates the still newness of Internet pidgin, emoticons, and LOLspeak.
The cast is led by JD Cullum and Gregory Itzin, both working in perfect tandem to drive this thought-provoking play through the inherently sad complexities of anonymous electronic entanglement. Known only as his screen name, JohnnyD, Cullum gives an impressive, contextually aware and emotionally driven performance. He wields the responsibility of being the worst sort of bad guy with tremendous skill and subtle compassion. Itzin seems less entrenched and invested in his role as Robert Roe, an FBI agent posing as a 14-year-old girl online, but he does a fine job conveying malfeasance and isolation within his character’s discomfort as a huntsman. The supporting cast – Bonnie Brewster, Danielle Gavalon, Christian Lyon, and Wolfie Trausch – enriches the production with finessed, wholly entertaining performances.
Under the direction of Jim Holmes, Sexsting is graciously orchestrated with an absorbing demonstration of underbelly seediness and bureaucratic stiffness. Holmes brings excellent timing and thoughtful reflection to each scene, always giving the audience just the right amount of space to stew in their own philosophical discomfort with the delicate material at hand. Cloaked by a metaphor-boasting grey-on-grey circuit board, Jeff McLaughlin’s set and lighting design is simple yet effective.
The sting of the play is so penetrating that the question of future evolution for Baizley’s leading men – that delicious post-show wonder about what comes next for a fictional character – remains long after the cast has taken their final bow.
photos omitted (available on the show's page)