REVIEW: New play Cocktales challenges sexual norms

New play Cocktales explores sexual norms. Photo by JD.

If a nymphomaniac falls in the woods among other nymphomaniacs, is she still considered a nymphomaniac? After all, if all women’s sex drive is as high as hers, then a high sex drive is simply considered normal, no?   

That is just one of the themes the off-Broadway play “Cocktales: The Farcical Confessions of a Nymphomaniac,” explores through a whirlwind of flashbacks, game shows, hypnosis, transsexual virgin videos, dancing studs and a giant vagina. The play, written by Slovenian actress Tjasa Ferme, opened on July 22 and runs through August 4 at the Abingdon Theatre, in association with The Cell.

Directly after viewing the play on Friday July 27, I sat down with Ferme to discuss the performance as she simultaneously nibbled on Starbursts, an almond bar, an apricot and washed it all down with a beer. Cocktales, she said, is a third or fourth incarnation of a former idea for a biographical one woman show.

“[The idea] came from personal struggle. I’ve always been interested in how the media presents women—or people in general—by making them two dimensional and giving you ‘dos and don’ts.’ I have my own take on that and I don’t think they’re quite that simple,” Ferme said. “I also don’t think female sexuality is the way [the media] presents it—and people are struggling with that conflict.”

The play begins when Adam breaks up with Eve (Ferme), the show’s protagonist, because she is a nymphomaniac. With the help of Dr. Truth, Eve tries to pinpoint the exact moment she became a nymphomaniac in order to cure herself from it and questions whether all women are nymphos.

After the “re-birth” process—through an oversized plush vagina, Eve is able to recall her first encounter with a penis: bathing with her rock star dad. After catching a first glimpse of her dad’s penis, Eve is curious. She wants to see more penises, touch them and have one too. Dr. Truth immediately diagnosis it as Electra complex and penis envy. Through hypnosis Eve reveals she wants to “provoke as many erections as possible.”

Eve also recalls reading Cockmopolitan magazine as a teenager and feeling inadequate because she’s not having as much sex or as much fun with her girlfriends as the women in the magazine. “No one is trying to stick things in me—is it because they don’t find me sexy enough?” Eve wonders.

Ferme said while Cosmopolitan was available in Slovenia, the country also had its own version, Eva, and the Croatian version Mila, which Ferme remembers reading on the beach when she was 12.

“You start comparing yourself and you realize ‘I don’t fit this category. Fuck, my life sucks—I’m an outsider!’ That’s what the show deals with,” Ferme said.  

Eve goes on to tell Dr. Truth about losing her virginity, past relationships gone wrong, and sexual vampire fantasies that somehow symbolize why and when she becomes a nympho. Breakthrough.

In between this theatrical therapy session, Dr. Truth also shows Eve “pre-recorded” virgin videos of “teenage girls” (a.k.a. the hot men actors pretending to be teenage girls) relating their comical views on sex and relationships.

Ferme says her intended audience is for everyone. Men have a voice in this t0o.  A couple of times during the performance, the male actors chant, “We want our names back. We want our stories. We want our individuality,” reminding women not to objectify men and viewing them simply as a penis.

My favorite was when the men are conversing and one of them admits his confusion at the contradiction between the man being the one who constantly want lots of sex, but once he gets into a relationship, it’s his female partner that out-sexes him and wants more sex than he does. His fellow man explains: “Men like to have lots of sex with lots of different women, while women like to have lots of sex with one man.”

That sounds about right.

The climax (no pun intended) happens when Dr. Truth freaks out and admits she wants to be married and cherished by a husband. (At least, that’s what I think the freak out in a wedding dress meant?) In the end, Eve, talking gently to her giant plush vagina, realizes women need to “Brace ourselves and face our feelings in order to find our inner penis.”

And what does “finding your inner penis” mean, exactly?

“It means you’re complete, you’re one, you’re self sufficient, independent and you don’t need other people to provide what you need,” Ferme said. “You’re not necessarily an adult, but you’re mature on all levels—sexuality is just one example.”   

The play is fast and ambitious in tackling lots of issues and perspectives in one hour. I got lost and confused sometimes, but the point was clear. There are many different approaches to sexuality, and no matter which one is yours, you should stop comparing it to media representations (or others ideologies), accept it and embrace it. The play also reinforces safe sex, with condoms featuring in at least three scenes. Go see it if you don’t mind people openly talking about sex, want a good light hearted laugh, enjoy corny sexual innuendos and hot men prancing around.   

“It’s for everyone… I hope the audience feels a general loosening up, freeing up. I want individuals to get a vote, and for women to freely express what the feel and think and flaunt their own sexuality. I don’t mean everyone should go fuck around, but whatever it is that you’re feeling you should be able to express that and pursue that—as long as it doesn’t harm other people of course,” Ferme said.  

I also spoke with Ferme about her own Globosexuality. Stay tuned for that post next!

– JD

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