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2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Oral Histories’

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So, Oral Histories, written and directed by Ward Kay, turns out to be three oral histories about, um, seminal moments in oral sex in three people’s lives. A helpful postcard gives credit where it is due for the performers (though this information is not on their sparse website).

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Terry Overman tells the story of William, who develops an app that made him rich that was inspired by a blow job that he was receiving (from his wife – it’s not that kind of story). Now, if this app really exists, one that facilitates giving small amounts to charity, then a millionaire has gone on record on this topic.

Samantha Sheahan ably tells the story of Lisa, the good Christian girl who is lucky enough to have achieved orgasm with an inexperienced teenager giving her head (that story gives the phrase “Come to Jesus moment” a new, rather more literal, definition). Lisa’s story is a masterful interplay between expectation and reality, giving her both a convincing Christian story and a convincing story of female sexual empowerment.

The final tale of the evening is Ed’s, delivered by Steve Rosenthal, and though it is a rather more conventional story about a blow job saving a soldier’s life, that feels like the kind of old wives tale/fishing story that gets passed around as a ribald joke among veterans, Rosenthal tells the story quite well.

It is not at all clear that the stories being told, Moth-style, in the intimate performance space at Caos on F are true. Based on this postcard, it is clear that the people delivering the stories are not the people who may or may not have lived them.

Oral Histories is a refreshingly open attempt at creating a way to tell sexual stories in a way that is charming, honest, and euphemism free. In all respects, Lisa’s story is the standout, both for its completeness in describing sexual acts, the centrality of those acts to the moral of the story (no that is not a contradiction), and for highlighting non-traditional stories of sexual empowerment (it is female-centered and openly religious).

The other stories are bracingly honest, but also resolutely focused on the male experience. All of the stories would be richer if they were 100% true and based on interviews conducted by writer and director Ward Kay, though the structure of the credits suggests they are fabricated (though I am happy to learn otherwise).

The stories are introduced by a hostess, the charmingly flustered Allie Kay, who is clearly new to the work of saying dirty things in a front of a very willing audience. She loosened up once the audience gave her some laughs, and she has several excellent laugh lines (and one cringe-inducing moment of cultural insensitivity about Arab men that should be struck from the show immediately if author and director Ward Kay is reading and/or paying attention to his audience).

The cooking lesson that Ms. Kay delivers on the do’s and don’ts of dinner prior to engaging in oral sex shows real promise as a bravura piece of practical advice delivered in a hilarious way, though a little more research and a little less focus on blow jobs and more attention to female sexuality (what does cinnamon do for the ladies?) could turn this into a truly classic bit.

Oral Histories is a genial experience that deftly handles naughty topics in a wonderfully positive way and it showcases a real sense for the art of the anecdote. If you can handle 60 euphemisms for oral sex being delivered in under five minutes, you will find yourself having a pretty good time for the other 65 minutes of this show.

Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.

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Oral Histories plays through Sunday, July 24, 2016 at Caos on F – 923 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

RATING: THREE-AND-A-HALF-STARS1.gif

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