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Wednesday, December 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 35.0° F  Overcast
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Multiple O: Swing your partners
Broom Street Theater's productio touts the joys of nonmonogamous sex

The phrase "Sex is nice, and pleasure is good for you" is repeated so many times during n of Multiple O that it's hard to know if this is to reassure the performers or if it's to remind the audience how they're meant to feel. Either way, the mantra should be supplanted with the observation that "Sex is really kinda funny."

More a series of scenes presented as a revue, the play is based on a book called The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. (A well-thumbed copy is frequently referenced onstage during the performance.) The book has become an indispensable how-to manual for those who are interested in polyamory, which is the enjoyment of nonmonogamous relationships with your partner's approval. Fortunately, playwright John Sable doesn't stick too closely to the tedious psychobabble of his source material, choosing instead to highlight the humor in our erotic behavior.

Apparently taking cues from Woody Allen's movie Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, the scenes explore the risible lengths to which people will go in order to fulfill their fantasies. In the age of the Internet, however, one has to wonder what purpose such a play serves. Nipple clamps, whips and manacles all seem a bit passé, and are more apt to raise giggles than eyebrows.

But there are some effective moments, such as the sequence in which a brain holds a dialogue with its inebriated party-girl's body, and there's an amusing episode where Lucy and Ricky Ricardo attempt to swing with Ward and June Cleaver. But, as with all the scenes, they're too protracted and fizzle out with no apparent purpose. Comical or not, a play about sex should be, well, sexy, and this one, despite the extensive nudity, mostly isn't.

The cause isn't helped by the inconsistent pacing of the production, the largely mediocre performances and Broom Street's typically rudimentary production values. The play may be better than the book on which it's based, but that, unfortunately, is damning with faint praise.

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