As the audience is seated, questions about love and commitment are projected onto the back wall for observers to ponder before the play starts.
Eventually actor and playwright Xandra Nur Clark takes the stage, and in an assumed nod to Anna Deavere Smith, she begins to act out a collection of 21 carefully-edited interviews she’s gathered with various people on the topic of polyamory and non-monogamy, all while they play back into her earbuds.
Each interviewee’s name is projected onto the back wall as Clark carefully transitions between the 21 people she’s interviewed; young, old, male, female, cis- or otherwise. This is a large number of roles for one person to play, so there is some blurring of “characterizations”; nonetheless, Clark establishes an effective conduit for what is ultimately most important: the messages that these individuals share about their experiences and varying successes with non-monogamy and/or polyamory. The direction by Molly Clifford seamlessly shapes the evening into an effective delivery device for thoughts on an intriguing subject.
One interviewee, CJ, poignantly tells of her fear that she must settle for non-monogamy because she doesn’t feel deserving of someone who will want only her. She’s not certain the right person will ever come along, “cause there’s a really big possibility that it’ll never happen for me.”
According to Drake, non-monogamy provides pack safety. Olivia wanted non-monogamy but her relationship with Henry evolved into monogamy because she didn’t have the option to spread herself out with others when the baby came along; she was pleasantly surprised at the ensuing richness their monogamous relationship produced.
Rob points out that variety is nice: “I love tacos. Love tacos. If you fed me tacos every day for a year, I’d get sick of tacos!” He’s an evangelical Christian, and teaches his kids about monogamy, because “You’ve gotta know what the box is and be a master at working inside the box before you can reliably think outside the box.”
Ultimately, non-monogamy requires unlearning the social teachings of monogamy, a social norm that does not occur naturally in most of the animal kingdom. Non-monogamy in most circles is a fringe concept, and not widely accepted. For some, social nonacceptance is difficult. In its purest form, non-monogamy is without selfishness and without jealousy, however selflessness and comperison aren’t natural human assets. Non-monogamy can make some people feel left out, feel inferior (for example, Alejandro’s penis envy) and it can give others permission to skirt commitment.
Throughout these interviews, it becomes clear that non-monogamy requires rules, maturity, self-assurance, respect, and communication.
Wait, aren’t these key attributes needed in a monogamous relationship?
I once heard Polyamory defined as “love shared, not divided, between human beings.” Love is ultimate in this statement, not sex. Not all forms of non-monogamy require love, but without love, isn’t it just an orgasm?
Seen on Instagram just yesterday, about someone’s “sex fast” (quite the coincidence): “the body is never satisfied with anything. The spirit should be fed and nurtured instead.”
Polylogues (through October 9, 2021)
HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit https://www.polyloguesplay.com/
Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission