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Nu Sass Productions is a Capital Fringe success story. Established in 2009 by Aubri O’Connor and Emily Todd, the company, which is dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in theater, expanded a few years back from solely presenting work in the festival to putting on at least two shows annually. “Frustratingly, a majority of our plays have been written by men,” O’Connor remarked to me in 2014, as her company was preparing to open Stone Tape Party, a play by Danny Rovin, a man.
Nu Sass’ latest offering, 50 Ways to Date your Aubrey, is a bit of a riddle. It’s a largely autobiographical (note the variation in the spelling of Aubri) almost-monologue, wherein O’Connor holds forth on her romantic history and philosophy—“ethical non-monogamy” is the descriptor she prefers over “polygamy”—as scripted by Rovin. He occasionally interrupts the show to offer revisions, while stage manager Charles Lasky interjects to plead his innocence when the light and sound cues start misfiring. Moriah Whiteman is on hand, too, appearing as a succession of O’Connor’s exes and other characters.
But the story they’re all laboring to tell is still O’Connor’s, and as long as it’s coasting on her warmth and apparent candor as a raconteur, it’s a pleasure to sit through. After priming us to expect a learned disquisition on the nature of love and desire—Lynn Sharp Spears’ set surrounds O’Connor with faux Greek columns, and the show opens with the sound of harps—our narrator pretends that the technical glitches and an electronically distorted voice asking probing questions about her fears and regrets rattle her. She downshifts into a seemingly less ambitious set of dating stories. Dating stories are a sturdy genre of voyeuristic entertainment, especially when the tale-teller is as open-hearted and as free of vanity as O’Connor.
This is not a prurient collection of kiss-and-tells, but rather a reflection on the complexities of forming multiple simultaneous emotional attachments, and an attempt on our thirtysomething narrator’s part to explain why she has chosen the problems of this approach to dating over the problems of monogamy. That’s grist enough for a 70-minute show without the affectations of the interrupting playwright and pretend-blown cues. Those metatheatrical pieces are executed with the professionalism you’d expect from an outfit that’s been at this for nearly a decade, and O’Connor is a dextrous enough comedian that watching her try to control her mock exasperation at her collaborators is no chore. Given the universality of the topic and the buoyancy of O’Connor’s persona, it’s hard to shake the sense that simpler might’ve been even better.
To July 29 at 923 F St. NW. $17. (866) 811-4111. capitalfringe.org.