Jon is a rock star writer and a towering tutor in creative writing at a university, a demigod rather than a pedagogue, a word he makes a joke about early on in the semi monologous Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes.
This thrice married heart-throb is experiencing spousal separation when a student, 19 year old Annie, attracts his attention. She’s smart, spontaneous and an admirer of his work. And she lives across the street. Flattery as aphrodisiac. Proximity as opportunity.
He wrestles with the ethics, the twenty something age gap, the teacher student taboo enshrined in conditions of employment. But he can’t disguise his interest, mowing the lawn while focused on her window, tom-peeping across the neighbourhood nature strips, perving from the verge.
She rumbles him, confronts him, and the affair begins. And almost as quickly as it ignites, it is extinguished. But there are coals of conscience to rake over, embers of ethics, cinders of consequence.
Acclaimed Canadian playwright, Hannah Moscovitch takes a familiar scenario and gives it a good sharp shot of surprise and wit and shock. It’s funny and wrong and oh so right in the contemporary climate of consent and its context, especially within institutions and work places.
She deftly begins the play with a confessional monologue from Jon, of how his past presented his future and then reclaimed it. But the reasoning and excuses of his monologue is not the complete story, and soon must compete with duelling dialogue between him and Annie. Whose story is this, anyway?
Dan Spielman brings a relaxed, ruffled, reflective performance as the conflicted Joe, senses overridden, mindful of consequences, moral compass interfered with by magnetic attraction.
Izabella Yena is superb as Annie, from her dynamic entrance to powerful denouement, her energy and intelligence crackles, as she matures and takes over the navigation of the narrative.
Marg Horwell’s set is a triumph of simple practicality allowing the action to flow effortlessly between writer’s den, academic office, cheap hotel and suburban lawn.
Shades of mood and place are augmented by Rachel Burke’s lighting design, the use of follow spot highlighting Jon’s celebrity status.
Directed by Petra Kalive, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is an enthralling and entertaining exploration of power, truth and desire, of afterglow and after burn.
Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes
by Hannah Moscovitch
Director Petra Kalive
Venue: Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir St Theatre NSW
Dates: 2 June – 10 July 2022
Tickets: $XX – $XX
Bookings: belvoir.com.au or (02) 9699 3444
Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is produced by Melbourne Theatre Company and commissioned by Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, Canada.