Despite its provocative title, Heidi Saunders says her new play “Sex Again” isn’t an X-rated show.
“It’s not raunchy at all,” says the Louisville playwright.
That’s because the central conflict in this comedy is between a woman and her husband whose long-term marriage has, well, suffered from a lack of intimacy of late. The wife wants to end their dry spell, and her husband resists.
“After these decades of marriage, a husband faces his wife’s demand that they start having sex again,” says Saunders. “When the Regency romance novels she’s addicted to take on a life of their own, their marriage is tested as never before.”
Saunders says her play is a comedy, but with serious underpinnings.
“Older women in marriages want sex but aren’t getting sex in their marriages,” she says. “You’d be appalled to read what they say about post-menopausal women. The whole myth of this whole sexuality for older women is that women’s sex drive falls off after menopause, which isn’t true.”
In “Sex Again,” it’s the husband who “completely freaks out” at the thought of a second honeymoon in the empty-nest phase of his marriage, Saunders says, as his wife delves deeper into her historical paperback romances. When the characters from her books come to life, they act as a sort of Greek chorus of sorts, commenting on action.
Saunders did her research, reading her way through the sub-genre. Regency romances are set in the early 19th century, and take their inspiration from the romantic comedies of Jane Austen and other comedies of manners. But unlike their polite historical forerunners, some can be quite explicit.
“I went strictly for the pulp fiction,” says Saunders. “Within the romance genre, you can do cowboys, you can do sheiks, you can do historical or contemporary.”
Reading a ton of paperbacks was just the beginning of the work for Saunders. “Sex Again” is her first full-length play, and after years of writing ten-minute plays and other short dramatic works, she knew she needed a professional boost, so she enrolled in summer course on playwriting at New York University in 2012, where she found her classmates, all twenty-something undergraduates, a surprisingly receptive audience for her comedy about middle-aged sexuality. A staged reading of “Sex Again” at NYU followed, and this first production is the final crucial stage in the new play’s development.
“This is a major part of finishing a play. You can’t know your play is ready until you see it up on its legs,” says Saunders.
Directed by Keith McGill for Frog Pump Productions, “Sex Again” opens Friday and runs through January 18 at Vault 1031, the new performance venue in Old Louisville (1031 S. 6th St.). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (502) 592-4218.