Very much like a schoolgirl dancing around her room, Alicia Dattner begins her one-woman show, The Oy of Sex, with a rousing version of “I Want to be Your Lover” by Prince. As she settles she begins to engage the audience by talking about sexual experiences. Dattner kids around and says, “O.K., you first.” The evening proceeds into an autobiographical journey exploring the world of sex, more specifically love and sexual addiction. “You–we–will never be the same, from this night forward.” Tall order. Her background as a stand-up comic is clearly evident by her delivery, timing, and most importantly, storytelling.
Dattner takes the audience to her early puberty days with “Dear Diary, I can’t wait until the kissing starts!” and then she practices kissing with her hand aka Señor Wences. For her high school and college years Dattner says, “it’s kind of like my clitoris was slutty, but my cervix was a prude.” Eventually she surrenders her virginity after listening to “April in Paris” when the guy she was seeing didn’t leave. “This must be what love is, right?” to her eventual disappointment, “I waited 21 years for that? It’s just his penis going in and out?” and Dattner mimics the motion with her hands. There are some great lines in The Oy of Sex as one might expect from a seasoned stand-up comic. Describing her boyfriends and sexual adventures, Dattner is often quite funny. “Max was sort of like a frat boy, without the college. Not a catch. More of a catch and release. He was so dumb that he thought anthology was the study of ass holes.” Dattner also says, “My dad's family is Jewish, and my mom's family is atheist. So I want to marry a doctor who's good enough for me, but I don't believe he exists.” Pause, rimshot. The performance rests comfortably between stand-up comedy and a working copy of a ‘chick flick.’ What’s missing is a range of emotion.
Dattner is smart, funny, entertaining, talented and full of energy. Her delivery of getting hit on by another woman, Anastasia, was complete with wild abandon even as she was faking it with "When Harry Met Sally" style. It was almost as if watching Anastasia go down on her–it was that good. When Dattner is asked to reciprocate Dattner's expression is priceless. But this performance is not just comedy nor is it stand-up. As Dattner continues through the many lovers and trips to Burning Man it gets clear that sex and love for her is a problem, and instead of a new lover she seeks help. Dealing with addictions, while serious, can be funny and still be enlightening. The confluence of a great writer with a talented actor can bring out the depth that comes with the desperate actions of an addict wrapped up with self-effacing humor. Dattner’s range remains in the realm of stand-up, and make no mistake she is quite funny.
Whether Dattner’s choice, or her director Tom Bentley-Fisher, she uses a hand-held microphone the entire performance. It is not necessary for a theater like The Bridge. As a stand-up comedian working a large house it is indispensable or it can be useful for sight gags. It is phallic, after all. However in this experience it boxed her in as a stand-up comedian. While she is quite adept at choreographing her use of a microphone it got between her and the audience limiting her range of emotion, especially as she attempts to express more vulnerability delving deeper into her 12-step program and interactions with her sponsor. On stage Dattner owns the word certitude, and she is incredibly self-assured; delivering a solo show you have to be. However, the development of an intimate relationship with the audience beyond being funny is lacking. It's as if she wants to bring more to the stage but is locked in an old paradigm.
Dattner brings the The Oy of Sex full circle, declaring, “Knowingly or unknowingly, your consciousness has been raised.” She goes on to say, “But from this moment forward, you're a different person.” Again, a tall order. There is a lot of laughs, and she brings an incredible amount of energy to the stage. Dattner opens her life up to intense scrutiny for everyone to see, but as good as a stand-up comedian as she is, and she has honed her craft, it still feels like stand-up. The raffle after the curtain call confirmed it.
The Oy of Sex runs until April 17 at The Bridge at Shetler Studios (244 W. 54 St. between Broadway and Eighth Ave.) in Manhattan. Evening performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 10 and 17. Tickets cost $20. To purchase tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit smarttix.com.