Review of Sara Saltwick's The Pleasure Trials at Luna Stage, New Moon Reading Series

The Pleasure Trials - Examining the Complexities of Female Sexuality

By Patricia Rogers

 Austin, TX playwright  Sarah Saltwick .  Image credit:  LunaStage.org

Austin, TX playwright Sarah Saltwick.  Image credit: LunaStage.org

Monday night [April 11th] I attended a New Moon Reading at Luna StageThe Pleasure Trials by Sarah Saltwick and directed by Michelle Tattenbaum, the story of two very different women hosting trials for a new “treatment” to help women.  It was an enjoyable play examining the complexities of female sexuality made better with passionate performances from Sydney Blaxil, Teresa Kelsey, and Amy Hutchins.

In order to not give too much away, it did raise many questions in my head as I watched.  And it mostly had to do with how different sexual desire is for individual women.  You saw this as women began being screened in the trials.  This is where you saw the different factors in a woman’s life that affected their ability to be satisfied in the bedroom.

Who owns a married woman’s sexuality?  Should your husband be able to prevent you from having access to something meant to enhance your intimate experiences?  When it comes to studying, how you can become one with your body, should you even be evaluated as a couple?  I see such a strength in being secure in your sexuality . Figuring out what you like and then seeing how your significant other can add to it to make both enjoy sex.

How do you females relate to sex?  What defines it for most women?  Can there be a supplement that can satisfy the majority of women?  In 2016, can we still even judge any lifestyle considered out of the ordinary? 

In the screening process of Sarah Saltwick’s The Pleasure Trials, women were asked personal questions about sexual history and patterns.  This is where you see a duality in how society views women.  Women that were more likely to move forward were ones in long-term monogamous relationships, and also in some way repressed in their sexuality.  Is this the preferred type of woman in society?  I mean, how many stories do we have in the media about the gender bias when it comes to sexual activity?

Popular Females Known for Having Strong Sexualities

Samantha Jones, one of the for main characters on HBO series, Sex and the City.  Any woman who likes sex considers themselves the Samantha of their girlfriend group.  Out of Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, Samantha was the “wild” one.  She was free with her sexuality.  By the end of the first movie, she is 40, fabulous, kid-less and single.  She took pride in her escapades and strength in self.  However throughout the series we see moments of self-doubt.  Like the perceived judgment from Samantha’s longtime friend Carrie after she walked in on Samantha giving head to a mailman in her office.  In the middle of the day.  But who did Samantha really feel judged by?  Carrie or herself?  After years of bedding all of Manhattan (her words, not mine), did she ever feel like a slut?  Or when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.  Samantha gets offended when her male doctor insinuates that she had a better chance of not getting breast cancer if she would have had children.  After storming out she quickly changes to a highly regarded female doctor . There she meets a nun, also awaiting breast cancer treatment, who has never had sex.  Therefore, she doesn't have any children either.  This makes Samantha feel a lot better about what the other doctor said to her.  So how confident was she about her life choices?  See, it is never black and white.

Amber Rose, the most modern example of a woman taking a stand on having the choice to live any type of sexual life.  As long as it is her choice. Amber and friend Blac Chyna, both former strippers, took a stand at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards by wearing outfits spray painted with usually derogatory terms like "slut," "whore," and "gold digger." She also wrote a book called How to Be a Bad Bitch, and at her Slut Walk she made peace with the men in her life who judged her and for how the public perceives her as she moves on in her life.

Another element that spoke to me during The Pleasure Trials was the conflict between youthful, blind optimism and the pessimism that comes from seeing a lot more of life.  I mean, the tit for tat between characters “Dr.” Young and Dr. Milan.  Both women, I am guessing a twenty-year age difference, ended up having a lot they could learn from each other.

Then there was the shameless self-absorption of my generation: Dr. Young never failing to mention she named the ailment they were looking to treat in women.  She also insisted on being referred to as "doctor" at every chance.  She was endearing, comical and at some points annoying. Especially to Dr. Milan who seemed to be dealing with her own internal struggles.  Watching Dr. Young, I was feeling the same way  I felt when watching the protagonists from another original HBO series, Girls.  A show that also examines the complexities of well, girls.

All in all, The Pleasure Trials was a great experience.  I was impressed with actress Amy Hutchins who performed a variety of characters, women on completely different spectrums.  This was very entertaining.  I am going to be sure to make it a habit of attending all of Luna Stage's New Moon Series when they start again in the Fall.

 Image Credit:  LunaStage.org

Image Credit: LunaStage.org

From the Luna Stage website:

"Luna Stage New Moon Series takes place on every second Monday of every month from October to May, the mission of The New Moon Reading Series is to support emerging playwrights by providing them with the opportunity to hear their new work read aloud by professional actors and to pose questions to, and receive feedback from audience members in a safe and constructive environment.

A play reading is a vital step in a playwright's process of developing a new play to the point where it is ready for a full production. Come be a part of the creative process! Each reading is followed by a talkback with the playwright. No reservations necessary. $5 suggested donation at the door.

The Pleasure Trials: Dr. Milan and her young assistant Callie are close to perfecting a female libido enhancement drug. Expectations are high and demand is higher. But in the clinical trial, their subjects' desires prove to be more complicated than yes or no, better or worse, placebo or pill. When it comes to pleasure, how much is too much?

Sarah Saltwick is a playwright based in Austin, TX, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and was recently a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. Upcoming work includes readings of The Pleasure Trials at Luna Stage and Amphibian Stage and development of Europa at the Drama League. Her play, A Perfect Robot was a finalist for the O'Neill Playwright Conference and a Kilroy Honorable Mention for 2014 and 2015. Sarah's plays have been recently been produced or developed by groundswell theatre company, Kitchen Dog Theater, Swan Dive, the Navigators, Red Theatre Collective, Phoenix Theatre, the Icicle Creek Theater Festival, WildClaw Horror Theater, Weber State University, Barnyard Theater; as well as in cars, backyards, dressing rooms, lobbies, and a swimming pool. You can find more about Sarah's work on www.sarahsaltwick.com or on the New Play Exchange."


Read past reviews about Luna Stage on Masconsumption here. 

Luna Stage is located at 555 Valley Street, West Orange, New Jersey 07050. Visit their website and like their Facebook page.  Support local arts and community.

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist.  Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).