Hannah Moscovitch’s new play, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, has a tantalizing title and the timing of its premiere is quite appropriate. We see sexual misconduct but it involves one person, maybe two and not an entire middle class let alone middle classes.
Jon is a university professor, separated from his wife, and he notices and becomes attracted to a pretty first-year student who is wearing a red coat. His attraction seems to be strictly sexual or esthetic, if you prefer, because he knows nothing about this woman. But he finds out that Annie shows writing talent and admires his work.
Alice Snaden and Matthew Edison. Photo: Joy von Tiedemann
His conduct in meeting her approaches stalking but they do meet and their relationship becomes sexual. If you set aside the fact that he is a professor and she is his student, you may argue that the relationship is consensual. Indeed there is no evidence of overt undue influence.
Moscovitch is not interested in a Weinstein or Ghomeshi type of narrative. This is not a story of abuse and comeuppance. The story is told from the point of view of the professor who speaks of himself in the third person. He is examining his own character. He is a talented writer, married three times who has issues with his personal and professional life.
The play has only the two characters and no one else is involved directly. In the beginning Annie plays a minor role and we may expect some ups and downs but a happy ending. That goes by the board when Jon’s wife becomes pregnant, he goes back to her.
In the latter part of the play Annie’s character is developed and she writes a book that she is ready to present to Jon. Both of them know that she can report him to university authorities and that will be the end of his career. But this in not David Mamet’s Oleana. The two get along years after the affair is finished.
Matthew Edison and Alice Snaden. Photo: Joy von Tiedemann
The set by Michael Gianfrancesco shows a brightly coloured, mostly red corridor with several doors on each side. A desk and several chairs are about the only props needed. Bonnie Beecher has designed expressive lighting with good use of spotlights.
Sarah Garton Stanley directs and the performances by Matthew Edison as Jon and Alice Snaden as Annie are impeccable. But the situation with its humour and self-analysis by Jon struck me as sparse material for the play. There were a large number of scenes with some time used for the changes. The play is more than an hour long and it seems to take a long time to get to the punchline, effective though it is.
Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes by Hannah Moscovitch continues until February 2, 2020 at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario.