Famous for his insightful and painful examination of race as a social construct in the play Colorstruck, Donald Lacy now thinks of himself, alternately, as a stand-up comedian, political monologist, and public intellectual. Thus far, much of his work has veered from personal experience to general observations, and from concrete reality to abstract notions. That was the path he took in Colorstruck, which used a series of autobiographical stories — including the fatal shooting of his sixteen-year-old daughter, LoEshé Adanma Lacy — to draw conclusions about race, violence, and the disparities of urban life. His new play, Sexphobias, has a lot more levity, but it also — bad pun alert — starts at an intimate place.
But this one is a little more anthropological in nature. Lacy says that the idea first germinated back in 2001, when he started noticing the degree to which his friends — most of whom are women, apparently — relied on social networks to mediate their relationships. "It's become convenient for people to kind of detach themselves from getting to know people," Lacy said, expressing his rather jaundiced view of the modern world. While that sentiment isn't particularly new, it's endlessly titillating.
In fact, as conversation topics go, technology has almost as much sex appeal as — well, sex. So it's no surprise that a lot of people would take a prurient interest in Sexphobias. Lacy began working on the play in earnest around 2009. Over the course of two years he interviewed between 40 and 50 people, mostly women, mostly ages 35 to 50, about their Internet dating habits, their chatroom use, their hang-ups, and their sexual proclivities. He talked to a few staff members at the now-endangered Lusty Lady strip club, and asked for first-hand inferences about the clientele. He even did a little research by going into chatrooms himself.
His conclusions: Women (and a few men) in this particular age bracket have a near-paralyzing fear of intimacy. Enough that it's actually cause for concern, Lacy said. "My single women friends are afraid of who they sleep with and who they get involved with — they've become very discerning," he said. "Which is kind of sad to me."
It's debatable whether Lacy's sample size is large enough to draw any real conclusions about fear and alienation, and to what extent his friends have succumbed to their inhibitions. That said, his stories have become grist for some pointed humor. Under the tutelage of director Sean San José (who also helped develop the script for Colorstruck), Lacy created a single character to emblematize the concept of "sex phobia." It's really a composite of all the people he interviewed, with a little personal perspective thrown in. He premiered it to enthusiastic crowds last summer at The National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina; he'll unveil it again at Black Repertory Theater (3201 Adeline St., Berkeley) Friday through Sunday, May 25-27. $25-$125. BlackRepertoryGroup.com