The J(oys) Of Sex And Love

Alicia Dattner's one-woman show veers between zany and zen

Alicia Dattner used to be too shy to talk to people so she would make out with them instead. She refers to having an affair as being “covert polyamorous.” And she has a history of being unable to say the word “no.” These are just some of the things you will learn about the San Francisco-based comedian from her new one-woman show, “The Oy of Sex,” which is in its current run at the Bridge Theatre on West 54th Street.

Dattner explodes onto the stage of the intimate, black-box theater singing Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” As the music fades she pointedly asks, “Do you want to be my lover?” putting the audience on its toes, the small space becoming consumed by an energy of playful intensity.

Dattner is not fazed by the moments of awkward uncertainty but rather anticipates and thrives on them. “It seems like a stand-up show, but it’s really more of a play, which has people shy to participate, even in the moments when I invite that,” Dattner tells NY Blueprint. “It seems like it’s going to be just funny, but it also turns out to be deep, so the audience doesn’t quite know what to expect, and it can take a little while for people to settle into something really different.”

In her show, Dattner chronicles the exotic and mayhem-laden journey of a young woman (spoiler alert: it’s Dattner) who evolves from being afraid of spin-the-bottle to developing a love and sex addiction to finding inner peace and spiritual awakening in India. Throughout, Dattner invites audience members to shed their conventional expectations for comedy and instead enter into a raw realm of poly-dimensional humanness where the lines of crying and laughing becomes as blurred as our eyes.

Throughout the 80-minute show, Dattner dramatizes different stages in her life. There’s the lost, insecure young girl who refers to her mouth as a “demagnetizer.” Then there’s her more adult self, the one who gains a super boost of confidence when she discovers her sexuality for the first time — she throws her hands in the air and yells, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a sexually liberated woman!” The inevitable perils follow, such as being dumped in the middle of the desert at Burning Man. Rejection, she learns, is her kryptonite.

Much like life itself, despair, joy, confusion, doubt and yearning drive the momentum behind Dattner’s performance. Just as we sometimes trudge or fly through our own lives, the audience is pulled through scenes of Dattner crying on the floor mid-chocolate cheesecake binge, followed quickly by her hilarious, ebullient interpretation of God as a nebushy, Jewish man whose bright plan to get people to “buy houses and minivans” hinges on making sex between a man and a woman an impossible puzzle.

Dattner’s experience doing stand-up pierces through the monologues with sharp, polished punches: “My father is Jewish and my mom is an atheist so I want to marry a doctor, but I don’t believe he exists” or “When I was in high school my dad was terrified I would get pregnant. Now he’s terrified I won’t.” While her Judaism doesn’t dominate the show it’s clearly a central part of her identity. When reflecting on her childhood in the show, she recalls feeling out of place because of her background: “It’s hard to be the child of crunchy, granola, hippie Jews. Want to trade that pudding cup for my rice cake? It has tahini on it!”

Perhaps the funniest moment of the show is when Dattner talks about her experience with love addiction and the support group she was in. “I was in a 12-step group for love addicts. That’s a fabulous idea — put us all in a room together. Give everyone each others’ phone numbers …” she says going on to play out a scene between two sex addicts who are struggling with step two, each attempting to convince the other to disrobe over the phone.

Having developed what she calls a “Messiah complex” at one point as a child, saying that she felt it was her responsibility to save the world even before her bat mitzvah, Dattner later learns the value of self-love. “I love myself and I definitely accept myself. It’s a relief. Maybe I don’t have to save the world all by myself. … I kind of have to save myself first.”

Dattner’s show doesn’t only reveal the challenges she’s faced, but also forces audience members to challenge themselves as well. Looking out from where she has been performing for over an hour, the comedian takes a breath and says, “I bet tonight it’s possible we can be different. We can even be different people.”

'The Oy of Sex' is playing through April 17th at the Bridge Theatre at Shelter Studios. Dattner will be performing June 23-26 at the Hollywood Fringe in Los Angeles.

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The Oy of Sex


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