Sexual Perversity In Chicago

Sexual Perversity in Chicago
Written by David Mamet
Date premiered 1974 (1974)
Place premiered Organic Theater Company
Original language English
Setting Chicago
IOBDB profile

Sexual Perversity in Chicago is a play written by David Mamet that examines the sex lives of two men and two women in the 1970s. The play is filled with profanity and regional jargon that reflects the working-class language of Chicago. The characters' relationships become hindered by the caustic nature of their words, as much of the dialogue includes insults and arguments. The play presents "intimate relationships [as] minefields of buried fears and misunderstandings".[1]

Characters and Plot

Dan Shapiro – An urban male in his late twenties
Bernard Litko – Dan's friend and associate
Deborah Soloman – A woman in her late twenties
Joan Webber – Deborah's friend and roommate

Scene – Various spots around the North Side of Chicago, a Big City on a Lake.
Time – Approximately nine weeks one summer.[2]

Danny and Bernie balance their mundane office jobs with sexual banter, particularly their experiences and preferences in the bedroom. Likewise, Joan and Deborah frequently discuss the shortcomings of men while at their apartment.

The main plot point is Danny and Deborah's relationship, perpetuating much of the dialogue about men and women. Their romance is quickly established by sexual attraction, but as the play progresses and Deborah moves into Danny's apartment, they are unable to talk with each other seriously. Danny complains in frustration, "Everything's fine. Sex, talk, life, everything. Until you want to get 'closer', to get 'better'. Do you know what the fuck you want?"[2] Eventually, the couple breaks up while Danny and Bernie revert to their usual talk about "broads" and what is wrong with the world.

Joan says,

"I don't know anything, Deborah, I swear to god, the older I get the less I know. (pause) It's a puzzle. Our efforts at coming to grips with an attempt to become 'more human' (which, in itself, is an interesting concept). It has to do with an increased ability to recognize clues...and the control of energy in the form of lust...and desire (And also in the form of hope)...
But a finite puzzle. Whose true solution lies, perhaps, in transcending the rules themselves... (pause) ...and pounding of the fucking pieces into places where they do not fit at all."[2]

Production history

An early version of Sexual Perversity in Chicago was first produced at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont by the members of St. Nicholas Theater. The production was directed by Mamet.

The play was a series of blackouts showing various people (waitresses, policemen, investment bankers etc. having discussions about sex. It featured:

The play was subsequently reworked by Mamet with director Stuart Gordon into the four character structure that made it famous and established David Mamet as a playwright. An earlier Mamet play Danny Shapiro and his Search for the Mystery Princess was combined with Sexual Perversity, adding the characters of Bernie Litko and Joan Webber. It was produced and performed by Organic Theater Company in Chicago in June 1974, in a production directed by Stuart Gordon. The cast featured:

  • Warren Casey as Bernie Litko
  • Eric Loeb as Danny Shapiro
  • Carolyn Purdy Gordon as Deborah Soloman
  • Roberta Custer as Joan Webber

In December 1975, the play was mounted off-off Broadway at the St. Clements Theatre in New York. An off-Broadway production directed by Albert Takazauckas opened on a double bill with the playwright's The Duck Variations on June 16, 1976 at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village and ran for 273 performances. The cast included F. Murray Abraham and Peter Riegert. Subsequent cast members included Jeff Zinn.

Jake Johannsen first thought of being a comedian when trying out for the Iowa State production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago in the early 1980s.[3]

West End Theatre

In 2003, Matthew Perry made his stage debut in a West End production co-starring Minnie Driver, Hank Azaria, and Kelly Reilly.

Činoherní klub

  • Directed by Ondřej Sokol. The play had premiered on 18 March 2004 in The Drama Club, Prague.
  • Bernard Litko .... Jaromír Dulava
  • Joan Weber .... Ivana Chýlková
  • Dan Shapiro .... Marek Taclík
  • Deborah Solomon .... Lucie Pernetová

Film adaptations

In 1986, it was adapted as the film About Last Night... with Demi Moore playing opposite Rob Lowe, and James Belushi paired with Elizabeth Perkins. The title change resulted from many newspapers refusing to advertise a movie with the original title. Mamet disavowed the movie, ruefully recalling that "as a callow youth with hay sticking out of my ears, I sold both the play and the screenplay for about $12 and a mess of porridge...." [4]

In 2012 it was announced that Steve Pink was in talks to direct a film adaptation of the play and a remake of the 1986 film.[5] The movie will star Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant,[6] and has a projected release date of February 14, 2014.[7]


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