by Trevor Thomas

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday December 6, 2009

Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris in "Moist!"
Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris in "Moist!"  

In Moist!, veteran actresses Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris join together as writer/performers to shake up the stage and our notions about, as they put it, "the stigma of sex as we get older."

Calling their revue at the Hayworth Theater a sex-istential musical comedy, this gifted duo generates enough ebullient energy to light a boulevard.

Definitely not for the whole family, Moist! explores the sexual lives of two very different women in the full bloom of what Miss Jean Brodie would have called their prime.

Ginger (Aalda) has chosen the traditional path of marriage and children, where Sonia (Morris) has remained an adventurer, circumnavigating the world of sensual pleasure, including a couple of layovers in Lesbos (which she recommends as essential to any woman seeking to experience the full luxuriousness of her own sexuality).

In less sure hands material of this nature might easily have degenerated into raucous vulgarity, but there are elements in the writing of Moist! so exquisitely crafted the work often soars into the poetic. A long wait becomes "another eternity of time" and an effort to recapture lost idealism: "I wanted to become all that I was, only more so." Rhyming couplets abound, along with allegory and metaphor, puns and entendres doubled and tripled. Though we are never far from the bawdy, it comes dressed in red satin sophistication.

The humor is inventive and smart. 9-year old Ginger announces to her dumbfounded father that her ambition is to become a courtesan, clearly understanding early on the immutable connection for women between pleasure and treasure. Sonia ruefully notes that in fifty years of theatrical portrayal, housewives have only managed to go from mad diarists to desperate: "not exactly progress."

With their biting social commentary mixed with deeply personal introspection, Aalda and Morris rebuke our youth-obsessed culture, reminding the true connoisseur of sensuality that experience and virtuosity easily trump taut skin and gravitational fortitude.

The ladies deliver the half dozen or so musical numbers that season their spicy concoction with great energy and verve. The two-piece onstage band consists of keyboardist Haakon Graf and percussionist Munyungo Jackson, and is wonderful beyond measure. Providing the musical depth of an eight-piece ensemble and a sound environment that acts like a wry narrator, the band is the unseen but omnipresent third character in the revue.

Penny Johnson Jerald directs her actresses expertly, filling the stage with energetic and eye-pleasing movement without either woman bumping into the immoderate but visually sumptuous set (designed by Christian Epps) or each other.

Moist! is a delightful piece of work, and a true guilty pleasure!

Performances Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. through February 28. The Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets and information visit, or call (323) 960-4442.