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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 1, 2018

Portland Stage premieres a play about the still-taboo topic of a married woman’s affair

Written by: Bob Keyes

Portland Stage Company continues its tradition of producing new work by New England playwrights with the production of “Sex and Other Disturbances” by Marisa Smith, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire. The Portland production is premiere of the play. It has previews through Thursday, and opens Friday for a three-weekend run.

The play is a story about infidelity and marital mores in modern society. It’s also a play about friendship between two women and how one woman’s affair with a younger man impacts that relationship.

“It’s about people in mid-life having different kinds of crises,” said Smith, who has been in Portland to help the director and actors prepare the show. “You really do have to reinvent yourself throughout your life, time and time again, especially now that we’re living longer and now that women are more empowered.”

A comedy, “Sex and Other Disturbances” presents the story of an affair and its aftereffects from the perspective of a married woman having a fling with a younger man. Sarah begins her journey as a passive woman who feels suffocated by her domestic life. For her, the prospect of an affair with a sexy young man she meets in an acting class represents her catalyst for enlightenment and empowerment as she seeks to take control of her life.

In her research, Smith found that divorce and diversity in sexual orientation are widely accepted in America, while infidelity remains taboo. And yet, one study she read suggested the rate of married women who reported they were unfaithful in their marriages has increased by 40 percent since 1990.

“Sex and Other Disturbances” tells one woman’s story of infidelity.

Portland Stage included the play in the Little Festival of the Unexpected, its new-work festival, last spring. The attention it received then was invaluable to the play’s evolution, Smith said. Based on feedback she received at the festival, she sharpened Sarah’s character and made her more likable and sympathetic.

Smith began writing plays a dozen years ago “on a lark,” she said, though she has been involved in theater for many years. She started out as an actor in New York and later, with her now ex-husband, began Smith and Kraus Publishers, a publisher of trade theater books and related digital resources. She began writing plays as a diversion and got hooked when a small theater in Vermont produced her first play.

“That first night, sitting in the audience was thrilling. It was a total drug, just sitting there listening to the audience laugh,” she said.

Her full-length plays “Saving Kitty” and “Mad Love” have had multiple productions across New England and beyond. This will be her first mainstage play at Portland Stage, and she is thrilled with the prospects. “It’s a wonderful theater, and they do such good work here,” said Smith, who has a summer home in Kennebunk.

“Sex and Other Disturbances”

WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland
WHEN: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 1-3; opens Friday and runs through May 20; performances at 7:30 pm. Wednesday to Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $30 to $63
INFO: 774-0465, portlandstage.org
CAST: Anney Giobbe, Jennifer Regan, Christopher Holt, George Psomas and Eden Malyn. Directed by Nadia Tass.

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