From the moment “The Escort” begins, it is clear that Emmy Award-winning playwright Jane Anderson will take the audience past closed doors and the “do not disturb” signs. This hilarious play follows high-class call girl Charlotte (Maggie Siff) and her influence on a family that seems to be liberal regarding the topic of sex. But as Charlotte’s presence continues to grow, the family questions what is normal and what is too deviant, even for their standards.
Charlotte steps on stage in a white robe to warn the audience that the play contains “mature language, strong sexual content and some nudity.” This announcement was needed, as Charlotte explains the playwright felt the dialogue would not be given the attention needed once exposed breasts and genitals came on stage. With that said, she and Lewis (Gabriel Sunday), the male sex worker who has joined her on stage at this point, open up their robes to display their flesh-colored body suits in their full glory.
If they didn’t have the audience’s attention before, they did now. Even from the back of the room, one doesn’t need opera glasses to see their organs.
As the laughter subsides and the audience’s eyes grow accustomed to the “nudity,” Charlotte continues to her first monologue.
Siff plays Charlotte with a sassy, confident attitude, completely embodying Charlotte’s brazen character. Intertwining both monologue and dialogue to develop the story, Charlotte humanizes her profession.
Charlotte’s soliloquy is done with ease, which almost sets the bar too high for the rest of the play.
In the scene to follow, Charlotte is seen in a cotton robe doing a routine medical exam with her new gynecologist Rhona (Polly Draper). Rhona and Charlotte immediately hit it off and begin to share details of their lives. Through one of their meetings, Charlotte finds out that Rhona has no time to herself, as she is a single mother to 13-year-old Mathew (also played by Gabriel Sunday) working a couple floors below her cheating ex-husband, Howard (James Eckhouse). Charlotte suggests that Rhona meet with Lewis, Charlotte’s colleague, to release some much-needed tension.
Though Rhona is initially turned off by the idea, she finds herself in a hotel room with Lewis and his briefcase full of tricks not for kids. As Lewis and Mathew are both played by Sunday in this four-person cast, the awkwardness of seeing Lewis give Rhona a sensual massage while in the previous scene encounter them as mother and son is disconcerting. Though both parts are undertaken with ease, Sunday was not as believable playing Lewis. It doesn’t help that Lewis’ character is a young Jewish boy with doctors for parents, the same description that is attributed to Mathew.
“The Escort” pushes past the boundaries of comfort and into a world of questions. Though Charlotte is originally looked upon with acceptance, in one of her last scenes, she relays the information that she catered to an entire professional football team in a period of two days. She defends her choice, but the slight change from high-class call girl to a prostitute who is just paid well is palpable.
As the last scenes play out, the audience is forced to revert back to the beginning and re-examine the scenarios that were given. “The Escort” brings up questions about what is acceptable and what is not, but leaves it to the audience to answer for themselves.
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