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A woman tries to hide her anger from a man who could determine the fate of her family.  Another woman loves her husband perhaps too much, and takes his vices on, perhaps too deeply.  Another woman suffers under her cruel husband but fights herself to keep from showing her fear and pain.  Another woman travels the world while unknowingly carrying a desire so mighty she can’t see it or say it until some uncontrollable grace forces her to recognize it.

The world of SEX & GOD is entirely internal.  It is truer than true.

The narrative of the lives of four working class women of Glasgow, Scotland over the course of the 20th century works at  level beyond the first person.  They allow us to see through their eyes, but their words do not explain their circumstances.  Rather, the words illuminate the world, the material, the emotional and the spiritual.

From Sex & God at Son of Semele Ensemble

From Sex & God at Son of Semele Ensemble (l-r, Sarah Rosenberg, Melina Bielefelt, Hilletje Bashew)

It’s a world that’s rarely ever shown.  And when we’ve seen it, it has come by way of explanation, perhaps an apology for why women may seem so mercurial, mysterious, etc.  But not here, not this time, not under Linda McLean’s pen.

More than one audience member has left the show confused as to the order of events and the specific details.  And I know very well just how hard the work was to decide exactly what each woman was experiencing externally.  The only clues we have are the words that come from women under duress – or ecstasy – words spawned to fill in an immediacy that doesn’t have action or environment, cause or effect, only feeling.

As I said, it illuminates, it doesn’t explain.

The illumination is unrelenting.  It flows without slowing for any stragglers, and it certainly never entertains making an apology.

Think about the descriptions of stories of working class men, their broiling anger, the great stress they face to provide for their families, the abuses of power they suffer and the destructive escapes they undertake.  The women of these stories are unseen, or mysterious…  or called “strong” and never studied any closer than that.

Over and over what we’ve heard is that the woman’s experience is to be borne, preferably with quiet dignity and definitely without complaint.  A woman who accomplishes anything notable is admired because she rose above the challenges implicit in being a woman.  But when have the basic, grueling, violent challenges of the working class life been notable for women?

There is a consistent elegance to SEX & GOD that is not forced or sought, even while a woman is beaten or raped, or when economic instability puts her in a crucible or when war touches her life, and there is grievance aplenty even when solace is taken in religious communion, addiction is indulged, education is sought or exotic experience displaces heartbreak.

The experience of this play can be agitating and troubling.  It is not easy to digest, but when should the truth of any person’s life be soothing?