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Extra Virgin

A Play About Not Having Sex Proves That There’s No Substitute for Excitement

The Innocence Project: Ian Bonds and Laurel Peyrot keep it clean.

By John Barry | Posted 7/28/2004

The Innocence Project

By Kathleen Barber

At the Vagabond Players through Aug. 8

In the Baltimore Playwrights Festival’s A Different Kind of Love, we learn a little bit about how far the sexual revolution has taken us. In this play, a mom is worried because her daughter isn’t getting laid. After working her butt off as a night waitress, Baltimore mom Gracie Woodfield (Lynda McClary) has learned that since completing her first year at college, her daughter Robin (Laurel Peyrot) has decided that “it’s bourgeoisie to think that college is such a big deal.” So she’s wound up marrying the boy next door, the somewhat geeky Jeff Reynolds (Ian Bonds). They’ve both decided to drop everything and come up with a coffee shop/ethnic pizzeria. But—and this is the deep dark secret—they’re both virgins. So they spend their nights together watching DVDs.

To Gracie, who’s had eight boyfriends, no marriages, and one daughter, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Jeff’s dad, the bearded construction engineer Reese (Mark Steckbeck), doesn’t agree much with that, either. But they both decide to shell out the money for a little apartment, where maybe nature can take its course, or an infusion of reality might lead them to get their lives back on track. Gracie’s boyfriend, the strait-laced banker Louis Mills (Terry Hickey), is ravenously attracted to his soon-to-be stepdaughter. And meanwhile, Jeff’s dad and Robin’s mom are beginning to gravitate toward one another.

Once again—I’ve seen three of these festival plays now—the characters are gems, but the plot structure is worn. A Different Kind of Love is a 21st-century tale of transgenerational dysfunction, placed within the confines of a conventional romantic comedy. Or Woody Allen and Mia Farrow meet The Graduate. What that means is that everyone who can dry hump onstage without sleeping with their own biological ’rents does dry hump, and then we let God (or playwright Kathleen Barber) sort them out. But what might have shocked in 1969 is obligatory now: The kids get hitched, but the mom has to have a piece of the action.

And the mom actually deserves it. As Gracie, McClary projects a charming, down-to-earth, tough love without venturing into any of the traps that a typical white-trash role presents. She is intelligent and good-humored, and when it seems that events have gone a little off track—as her boyfriend/daughter/future son-in-law/future father-in-law start working out the algorithms of love—she guides everyone back on course.

Reese adds an interesting note as her romantic foil. Although the logic of their arguments flew over this viewer’s head, the characters are clearly on the same wavelength. Louis, Gracie’s current boyfriend, an anal-retentive bank executive, definitely needs shaping up, though. While Barber has no problem turning a night waitress into a 3-D personality, she has a little more difficulty with this guy. Middle-aged white business execs can be articulate, too. At least that’s what I hear.

But if you’re expecting to see two kids drive off in a convertible, forget it. If anyone comes out smelling bad here, it’s the younger generation. Bonds and Peyrot work well with what they’ve got—they both give appealing, comic portrayals of their characters—but they don’t have much to work with. Jeff and Robin are clueless, virginal, spoiled, and uneducated. Their parents work their fingers to the bone trying to give them a better life, and what thanks do they get for it? Nuttin’. Hell, they can’t even find the way to bed without a jump-start from their parents. I don’t know: Kids today.

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