In the interests of full disclosure I should reveal that I went to see MOIST! because Iona Morris, the co-creator, co-writer, co-producer and co-star of this two woman show, is also directing Still Standing, the hip-hop musical I co-wrote with rapper Gleam Joel based on his life.
The Baby Boom generation, which had been in the front lines of the Sexual Revolution, asserted the fact that women, too, were sensuous beings filled with desires that needed to be satisfied. Call it de-Flower Power. However, the “Don’t-trust-anyone-over-30” generation of the 1960s/1970s has aged. Now that Baby Boomers are maturing, even though they may no longer be part of that “coveted youth demographic,” the post-“Make love not war” generation still has disposable income, so pop culture (and advertisers) have suddenly discovered the fact that women of a certain age are still sexual. Often this is played for laughs, as in TV’s Cougar Town series, which finds sheer hilarity in the notion that over-forty females remain lusty, and may even have a yen for younger men. What a knee slapper!
On the other hand the play and movie Mamma Mia! and It’s Complicated cater to and celebrate the idea that adults as ancient as Meryl Streep (apparently the poster child of post-menopausal sex), Pierce Brosnan and Alec Baldwin continue to partake of and enjoy sex. Woulda thunk it? MOIST!, which bills itself as “a sex-istential comedy” that stands for the “Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation!”, is in this latter camp, a celebration of the continuing sensuality of the 50-something female. These are the “Trotskyists” of the Sexual Revolution who, like that apostle of the Russian Revolution, believe that revolution is permanent.
While MOIST! advocates and affirms over-fifty female sexuality instead of mocking it, this does not mean that MOIST! is – well – dry. It is full of mirthfulness and has a decidedly playful attitude towards love and lust. In addition, unlike Streep’s recent celebrations of sexuality for experienced women, which includes Julie and Julia, MOIST! is told from the distinct point of view of two African-American women. The play seems what Frangela – the KTLK talk show pairing two chatty middle aged Black women and best friends Frances Callier and Angela Shelton, pundits who also appear on various other media outlets – might be if performed onstage.
Indeed, Morris plays Sonia Peechee, a late night talk radio show hostess known as “the Goddess of Sexual Freedom,” although the dramatic promise and possibility of incorporating a talk show format and sensibility (much in the headlines nowadays) is not explored here. Mariann Aalda, who co-wrote/co-produced/co-created MOIST! with Morris co-stars as her older sister, the divorcee Ginger Peechee-Keane, aka “the Little Woman Gone Wild.” Accompanied by a two-man band the duet, hoof, sing and monologue/dialogue their way through about eight songs and a variety of sagas about sex in its protean forms: Masturbation, intercourse, cunnilingus, lesbianism, menopause, shaving, sex toys which Ginger sells (she highly recommends Rabbit vibrators, BTW) and more. There is clever word play and rhapsodies to safe sex – so gays and straights can live to screw again – and to making love, not war. MOIST! seemed to me to be more of a sort of cabaret act with a variety of numbers deftly directed by Penny Johnson Jerald than a narrative drama or comedy per se, although it has elements of tragedy and humor, as do romance and mating. The songs, monologues and dialogues are amusing, poignant, in your face, sometimes over the top, and instructive, as the premise of the show is that the audience is attending a M.O.I.S.T. workshop presented by the sisters.
And the audience, which included many African-American women, by and large loved the performances and philosophy. In a kind of “call and response” the performers adroitly riffed with the responsive spectators, incorporating some improv into their show since, as Jimmy Durante wisely noted: “Everyone wants to get into the act!” (Especially the sex act.)
Both actresses are veteran talents with stage and screen credits as big as Morris’ derriere (which the well-endowed performer playfully serenades in The Ass Song). Aalda’s theatrical debut was with the estimable Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in Take It From the Top, and she has appeared on TV’s Designing Women and opposite Oscar winner Mo’nique on The Parkers. Morris is part of a show biz dynasty – her father Greg Morris co-starred in the original 1960s TV series Mission Impossible, and she appeared on the little screen in Cold Case, Star Trek: Voyager, Moesha and General Hospital and on the big screen in Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored, etc.
Women at the Hayworth Theatre seemed empowered by this passion play, which has a feminism that can be embraced by both males and females as it celebrates, rather than suppresses, sexuality. I entered MOIST! curious about the director of the play I co-wrote and left both thoroughly entertained and confident that Morris was up to the mission impossible of making our musical, to premiere next month in Switzerland, eminently possible.
MOIST! is being performed Sunday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. at the Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., CA 90057. For tixl: (323)960-4442; for more info: (818)255-1096; www.moistonstage.com.