'Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes' by Hannah Moscovitch
Montreal's Centaur Theatre
‘Sexual Misconduct’ becomes a strong reminder of the danger of misuse of the privilege of higher education. Although the #metoo movement resonates in the text, there’s more underneath about the abuse of trust. The acting is terrific.
Director Eda Holmes has taken Hannah Moscovitch’s at times disturbing ‘Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes’ and has meticulously woven a clear narrative about the dangers of the misuse of the privilege of higher academia.
This opening night performance was fascinating albeit at times disturbing to watch from the perspective of a highly revered college professor (whose personal life was already a mess) as he takes sexual advantage of a first-year student. The brief humour embedded in the text only heightens the eventual horrendous outcome of the harsh reality of the situation.
Marcel Jeannin is college professor Jon who is highly respected among his peers and students for his lectures. He is also a novelist and is in the process of writing his next novel. Jon’s personal life is in shambles - two ex-wives and he and his current have separated. Throughout most of the 90-minute performance, Jon breaks the fourth wall and speaks to us directly about his tortured soul. He also begins to fixate and comment on the sexual activity of the students in his classes. From my personal experience as a 33-year retired educator, here is the first indicator that trouble lies ahead in Jon’s interest where he shouldn’t even venture. He begins to like a student wearing a red coat in class.
This red-coated student enters from the back of the auditorium when we first see her - Annie (Inès Defossé). She is intrigued by Jon’s novels. Usually, she sits in the front row of the auditorium for the lecture which distracts Jon. We find out later Annie lives down the street from him. Throughout their conversations and tryst, we also learn that Annie had very few friends in high school. She speaks to her mother on the phone consistently but that changes when she and Jon are together.
At one point in the play, Annie ends up at Jon’s house outside while he is cutting grass. She accidentally locked herself out of her house and badly scraped her elbow and knee trying to climb through a window. While she has called the landlord to let him know she is locked out, she goes to Jon’s house where he assists in helping her clean up.
Ultimately it is here where the ‘fatal attraction’ begins.
What a riveting opening night performance as both Jeannin and Defossé remain committed in the moment to ensure credibility in their respective character developments. There are brief moments of what appears to be a tango-like dance where the two are in perfect synchronicity with each other. He masterfully soars the summit heights and spirals downward low in his passionate emotions as he is both aroused and repulsed by his actions. She smartly and wisely steers steadily more in control of her emotions which plays to her advantage at the conclusion.
While it may appear at an initial glance this relationship is consensual, it’s far from it. In her Director’s Note, Eda Holmes writes: “The erotic relationship between a teacher and student is not new” and she is correct on this account. What continues to fascinate and infuriate me is how those in leadership positions and trust may or can still find a way to use the gift of sex to deflect their actions on account of their struggles and demons rather than take responsibility for what they have done.
And if it takes someone like Annie to be a conduit to sound the alarm bells, then I’m all for it.
The pacing remains consistently natural throughout. James Lavoie’s set design is fluidly functional. The sharp angle downstage centre is perfect as it draws attention to the moment presented on stage. I liked the conveyor belt that moved set and prop pieces along the upstage floor. Sonoyo Nishikawa’s lighting design beautifully enhances the mood of the two actors. At times, a brief sentence effectively described what the upcoming moment entailed.
I must applaud and acknowledge the work of Intimacy Coach Luciana Burcheri. The intensely erotic moments between Jeannin and Defossé are treated with the utmost respect and responsibility that never became demeaning or uncomfortable to see.
Final Comments: Marcel Jeannin and Inès Defossé’s performances are worth a visit to the Centaur. It’s an on-the-edge-of-your-seat visceral and emotionally raw production with two artists who are entirely in synchronistic tune with each other.
Running time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes’ plays until November 27 at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St. -Xavier, Montreal, Quebec. For tickets call the Box Office at (514) 288-3161 or visit centaurtheatre.com for more information.
‘Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes’ by Hannah Moscovitch
Presented by Centaur Theatre Company
Director: Eda Holmes
Set and Costume Designer: James Lavoie
Lighting Designer: Sonoyo Nishikawa
Composer: Sarah Neufeld
Stage Manager: Danielle Skene
Intimacy Coach: Luciana Burcheri
Performers: Marcel Jeannin, Inès Defossé