Thou shalt covet thy neighbor's wife. And thy neighbor, too, at this suburban get-together for partner-swapping couples. Drawn in by The Lifestyle's promise of freedom and titillation, newly married Chris and Kristy attend an alcohol-fueled party for swingers, only to find themselves at odds with the idea of free love and, suddenly, each other. Idealism devolves into chaos in this sharp, sardonic assault on the struggle for power, and the sexual politics of getting laid.
Scenic Designer: Todd Rosenthal Costume Designer: Jessica Pabst Lighting Designer: Russell H. Champa Sound Designer: Rick Sims Production Stage Manager: Cole P. Bonenberger
Buoyant, amusing, vivid, tangy, beguiling, engaging, and rawly funny.
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
★★★★ Critic’s Pick! Bruce Norris is a master of peevishness and acrimony with bravura dialogue, perfectly set-up jokes, and juicy jeremiads. Pam MacKinnon directs a strong and frisky ensemble with her usual flair.
So people have been asking me a lot lately, “Why did you want to write a play about swinging? And how did you do your research?” Well… the thing is, it was never really meant to be about swinging. Not exactly.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Bruce Norris’s The Qualms can be ascertained visually just by skimming through the script. Every couple of pages you will find occasions where four or five characters speak simultaneously, represented in the script by those characters’ names spanning across one line. One can virtually feel the hew and outcry these various moments represent. What on earth could incite all this tumult? Well the answer is, of course, “sex.”
For the most part, since Ancient Greeks paraded across proskenions in their masks, the intent of satire has been to expose a world plagued by hypocrisy and hubris, in the interest of discrediting these ills. From Aristophanes to The Book of Mormon, writers have placed man’s folly center-stage in the interest of giving it a good flogging. But however scathing the ridicule, however harsh the mockery, the satirist’s aim is traditionally meliorative at its heart: surely with knowledge of our flaws, we can take ownership over them and correct them. Though we laugh like teenagers at the humiliation of Malvolio or the comeuppance of Tartuffe, these characters reflect writers who share faith in the essential corrigibility of man; faith in progress.
Armed with only a search engine and overwhelming curiosity, I set out across the murky vastness of the internet in a voyeuristic search for “swingers,” hoping to learn more about “swinging,” and am back to report my findings. I’m 24 years old and single.