An Intimate Look at Body Image and Trans Identity — “Sex in the Dark” at Phoenix Theatre

Photo by Hillary Olson.

Photo by Hillary Olson.

The Phoenix Theatre continues to be a go-to place for queer fare. Uprising Theatre Company is premiering a touching production of a new play, Sex in the Dark, by Shannon TL Kearns. This 90-minute comedy looks at two characters painfully insecure about their body image. Kearns also acts, and plays Ayden, a trans person who hopes to have intimate physical contact for the first time post-transition. Ashley Hovell plays opposite as Jess, a cisgender woman who is physically larger than what the media ideal is for women.

A bed sits center stage and takes up a good amount of space in Jess’ small apartment, a clever device that sets up the awkwardness that makes for this play’s many comic moments. Kearns demonstrates a great ear for small talk that flows into deeper intimate discussion. Sex in the Dark speaks of how so many of us internalize little fears, phobias, and insecurities about how we wrongly or rightly feel others may perceive us. Through the duration of the performance both actors ride a roller coaster of emotions, misunderstandings, and unity.

Projections of phone texts by Martin Sheeks add humorously to the way a date can lose focus when the need to communicate what’s going on outside the experience overcomes being with the experience itself. Shalee Coleman has directed Sex in the Dark with empathy and warmth, guiding her wonderful actors to discover several pleasing nuances. Kearns and Hovell play off each other with natural ease.

Sex in the Dark
Through Dec. 10
Phoenix Theatre, 2605 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

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