Finding Freedom in “The Ins and Outs of Fingers, Spoons, and an Open Marriage”

Lead Article, Reviews

By Leia Squillace
 
If you didn’t know what you were in for upon entering “The Ins and Outs of Fingers, Spoons, and an Open Marriage,” Pascale Roger‑McKeever’s script wastes no time in telling you. The play begins with a voiceover reading a love letter ‑ lust letter, rather ‑ that spares not a single, graphic detail. “Mom,” as the actress refers to herself throughout the play, is head over heels in lust.
 
Ms. Roger‑McKeever excels at sliding her shoes onto her audience’s feet. In a play that chronicles deeply personal sexual interactions, she manages to walk the tightrope between frivolous titillation and prudish withholding of detail to “spare” the audience. We are left with a stark‑nakedly honest presentation of Mom’s journey.
 
Structurally, the play is a rather literal staging of Ms. Roger‑McKeever’s journal that she kept during her love affair with a neighbor. Despite the familiar format, and one that could easily tip into the self‑reflective and overly personal, the show avoids this pitfall through Ms. Roger‑McKeever’s masterful storytelling and brave transparency as she investigates the emotional slaloms of her tryst.
 
After establishing that she will be using universal character names such as “Mom” (herself), “Hubby,” and “Son” to speak about the individuals involved in this true‑life saga, Ms. Roger‑McKeever unabashedly dives into the expository details of her open marriage. Hubby moves to California, several months before she and their son are meant to join him. He determines that he wants to sleep with other people, proclaims he still loves her, and insists on an open marriage. Left alone in their home, she reaches out for the nearest support she can find ‑ that of the emotionally withholding but oh‑so‑attractive “Neighbor.”
 
While the tension created by their unmatched levels of attachment is predictable, Ms. Roger‑McKeever cleverly uses this trope to tell a more original and genuine story. Mom’s taste of deprivation at the hands of “Neighbor” is not her first experience with the sensation. Mom has fought an eating disorder for the majority of her life, and her relationship to her body has long been one of control and denial. References to Hubby’s “Mr. Hyde” allude to a relationship dominated by fear. For a cherry on this suppression sundae, Mom regularly refers to her own emotional stunting, caused by the sudden tragic loss of her best friend in high school.
 
Now, add Neighbor’s guarded affect into the mix, and Mom appears more trapped than ever in this so‑called “open” marriage. But just as Mom seems ready to plummet off this cliff, her challenges begin to play off against each other. Neighbor makes a sexy game out of encouraging Mom to eat meals with him. Meanwhile, Mom’s newfound sexual prowess permits her to stand up for herself to Hubby. She steps into a rapid period of “growth in spite of the growing pains.” Throughout her relationship with Neighbor, and perhaps in spite of him, Mom finds the want, the will, and the words to express her desires. So revelatory is this saga, and so liberated is Ms. Roger‑McKeever’s performance, that one can’t help but watch Mom’s sexual awakening through the lens of a teenager’s youthful exploration. Mom herself joyfully proclaims that “she gets to be 18 again!”
 
Near the end of the play, Mom mentions her long‑held desire to perform the titular role in “Antigone.” She marvels at the character’s ability “to do whatever it takes to be allowed to be herself.” Watching Ms. Roger‑McKeever’s performance, one easily feels that performing this play might serve that exact purpose. And what a delight it is to be let into her world, and partake in her act of liberation.

 
The Ins and Outs of Fingers, Spoons, and an Open Marriage
Written and Performed by Pascale Roger-McKeever
Directed by Austin Pendleton
October 31 and November 1 at 9 PM
Photo credit: courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
 
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LEIA SQUILLACE is a director, devised theatre artist, and arts engagement administrator. Leia has developed new plays such as “GOOD KIDS” (Naomi Iizuka), “THE TRAIN” (Irene L. Pynn), and the Kennedy Center National Undergraduate Playwriting Award winner, “FAIR” (Karly Thomas). Most recently, Leia co‑developed a one‑woman show, “I KILLED THE COW,” which is currently touring nationally.
 

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