In its basic contours and execution, Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s “The Sexual Life of Savages” at the Beverly Hills Playhouse is an edgy dramedy of postmillennial eroticism that certainly keeps us watching.
Under the expert eye of director Elina de Santos, “Savages” begins with the five scantily clad principals in an abstract tableau. This segues into the first of several monologues that punctuate the unfolding relationships of some hot-to-trot suburbanites.
There’s hunky high school coach Clark (Burt Grinstead), whose marriage thrives due to he and unseen wife Emily’s reliance upon ménages a trois with other women. His colleague Hal (Luke Cook), an English teacher, is far more conservative, as revealed in his first scene with girlfriend Jean (Melissa Paladino), their foreplay interrupted by Hal’s fixation on how many men she’s slept with before him.
Factor in Naomi (T. Lynn Mikeska), Jean’s lesbian co-worker, and sexually repressed Alice (Melanie Lyons), Hal's fellow teacher, and a verbally graphic, tonally sardonic study of what constitutes sex, love and relationships in this Digital Age ensues.
Interacting with and aggravating each other on designer Hazel Kuang’s witty symbolist set, the attractive cast is uniformly accomplished, with Lyons’ febrile faux-Brit a particular standout. There’s much to admire about playwright MacAllister-McDonald’s knack for dialogue and inventive structure, with some simultaneous sequences that suggest David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” gone bipolar.
What’s less definite is just what it tells us that's new, or exactly what we’re meant to take away. Certain plot points -- Clark’s swingers-website scandal, for example – lack resolution, and a 21st-century overview of sexuality that doesn’t at least acknowledge male-male relations amid its mélange feels short-sighted.
Still, “Savages” is a ribald, intelligent and promising new work. Adventurous playgoers and/or fans of premium cable fare will likely embrace it.
“The Sexual Life of Savages,” Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 16. Mature audiences. $30-$34. (213) 761-7061 or http://skylighttix.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.