An audience should go into Alicia Dattner's solo show The Oy of Sex forewarned about a couple of things, both of which are nicely indicated by the title. One is that that Dattner talks pretty explicitly about sex throughout the show, so it's for audiences 17 and up. The other is that it makes sex sound like no fun at all.
Oy is Dattner's tell-all (okay, maybe not all) account of years of sleeping around with guys she didn't even like just because she wanted them to want her -- or sometimes because it seemed the easiest way to get rid of them. It's also a tale of recovery, of hitting rock bottom (or, from the way she tells it, having been there from the start) and learning, with the help of a love addiction support group, to love you-know-who. (Herself. I'm talking about herself, not the Lord or something.)
Alicia Dattner; photo: Robert Strong
San Francisco, and the Marsh in particular, is a hub of theatrical solo shows, and a lot of them fall into one particular category: standup comedians get serious with a confessional narrative about one aspect or another of their messed-up lives. Of course, they want to make these as funny as possible, but part of the learning curve is learning to go a while without a laugh in order to let the story they're telling hit home. The Oy of Sex certainly fits that description. Dattner is a longtime comedian, and her previous show, the 2009 San Francisco Fringe Festival premiere Eat, Pray, Laugh!, recounted her trip to India in search of enlightenment.
Dattner's delivery is very much that of the standup comic. She paces around with mike in hand, prompting the audience from time to time to help her out with time-travel sound effects or to chip in their contributions to a word-substitution game she and an ex used to play. That style seems very much at home in the bare-bones production directed by Joshua Townshend Zellner in the Marsh's Upstairs Studio. There's no set at all, just a black curtain, a stool and a microphone stand.