In her 1997 book Depth Takes a Holiday : Essays from Lesser Los Angeles Sandra Tsing Sandra Tsing Loh skewered the ridiculousness of life in Los Angeles, particularly as lived by singles. Admirers likened her to Fran Liebowitz an Spalding Gray. Another assemblage of comic ruminations, Aliens in America, has enjoyed life both as a book and a one person show. Now comes her latest mono-comedy with no diversionary detours to ruminate about IKEA shopping, Las Vegas and art grants. The focus is strictly on the myographer's cautionary spiel about her journey along the rocky trail of the single life -- not her native California, but as lived along the stretch between Lincoln Center and a 112th Street where the gang f rom Seinfeld have been hanging out with much commercial success at Tom's Restaurant.
Kevin Adams whose snazzy and versatile pegboard set greatly enhanced Tell-Tale (see Link), gives Bad Sex With Bud Kemp the visual boost need to excuse its being in a theater rather than a comedy club. In fairness, to Ms. Tsing Loh, she's a good writer (see links to her published books). She does infuse considerable wit into the shopworn theme of single women navigating the big city terrain infested with commitment-phobic, self-absorbed men. She has managed to work her monologue into a beginning-middle-end story with the narrator-star-author emerging as a triumphant, (of sorts), survivor of the single wars.
But when all is said and done Bad Sex With Bud Kemp is When Harry Loves Sally with Ms. Tsing Loh playing all the parts and never leaving the set which, though in bright turquoise, at times has a claustrophobic, prison-like effect. That element notwithstanding, the set is as much a star of this tale as its teller. Props ingeniously and conveniently slide or fold out as needed. The lighting (also by Kevin Adams) at times creates backdrop scenery, thereby deflecting some of the monochromatic claustrophobia. It also serves to project the episodic titles that lead from movie dates and sex with Bud to the final rapprochement between impossible and possible dreams.
As for Bud Kemp of the title, even though we never see him, there's little doubt that he's no Billy Crystal. But then neither is Robert, the articulate, gainfully employed (as an architect) dream-blind-date. He lives in a terrific condo and warrants "move-in condition" status on Sandra's large roster of men to whom she tends to be someone "to fall back on" as a "listener, money lender, provider of Zanax." Yet sex is no more terrific with Robert than with Bud or with anyone since as Sandra observes "Sex between two people can be such a lonely thing." There are of course other men, but Bud and Robert are the bookends tieing the story together. The flowers they send the day after the night best not to remember symbolize the essence of things that can be improved upon (like bad sex) and things that cannot.
I suppose as long as there are stand-up comics who transform club routines into into respectably successful road show (Like Shear Madness ), and on occasion into a hot Broadway ticket like Freak , performance artists will continue to write these self-created star vehicles. While Ms. Tsong Loh does have a way with words, (she's even written a novel), she is probably better to read than to watch. Her acting is simply not on a par with the best of these monodramatic performers, and thus fails to give her script the multi-layered performance it needs to lift it out of the slush pile of similar myographies. Still, since this is her second engagement at the Second Stage ( Aliens In America ), there are probably enough people who won't find the brief hour and fifteen minutes as endless as some of the hellish dates the women she epitomizes endure.
BOOKS BY SANDRA TSING LOH
Aliens In America, 94-page paperback (1997)
Depth Takes a Holiday : Essays from Lesser Los Angeles Ms. Tsing Lord's much praised essays on the single life and assorted foibles of modern life in a metropolis.
If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home by Now, hardcover, 231 pages, is the prolific writer-performer's first venture into fiction and, like her essays, was well received. Publication date:
| BAD SEX WITH BUD KEMP
Written and performed by Sandra Tsing Loh
Directed by David Schweizer
Sets and Lighting: Kevin Adams
Clothing: Peter Cohen
Sound: Robert Murphy
Second Stage, 2162 Bway, at 76th St. (787-3392)
4/21/98-5/10//98; opens 5/03/98
5/04/98 by Elyse Sommer