Like her âSex and the Cityâ alter ego Carrie Bradshaw, Candace Bushnell once dated a politician – though he never asked her to pee on him. Chic details like this are deliciously sprinkled throughout âIs There Still Sex in the City?â, A one-woman show written by and starring Bushnell which opened Tuesday at the Daryl Roth Theater. But here she offers more than just fodder for fans of her confrontational urban fairy tale about female sexual liberation, which has grown from her mid-90s column for The New York Observer to the enduring franchise.
With his straightforward and unpretentious point of view, Bushnell has developed an engaging and assertive mode of storytelling that marries ambitious fantasy and confessional friendly. Making his stage debut at the age of 63, the author synthesizes his personal and professional life as if it were a surprisingly eventful night on the town, inviting audiences backstage and into his cozy confidence with a wink. eye and a cocktail. (Cosmopolitans are available for purchase at the entrance to the theater.)
Bushnell’s onstage memories unfold quickly. When she came out of puberty with a flat chest, her father said soberly, âI’m afraid no man will ever love you. (âThanks, Dad.â) She got off the bus to Manhattan in a Loehmann outfit her mother chose, hoping to write her way to a Pulitzer. She landed her first signature with a tongue-in-cheek article on how to behave at Studio 54. (âIf anyone dies, ignore it.â) She met him Mr. Big, and then he just dumped her. by the time she published the book “Sex and the City” in 1996 which would revolutionize the way readers, and later viewers, thought of women and sex.
Under the direction of Lorin Latarro, Bushnell is conversational and accessible on stage; there is a wonder and humility in her tone even as she settles behind the velvet ropes of high society, which makes her endearing rather than alienating to those who view her from the outside. His prose doesn’t play for fun, but the humor stems from Bushnell’s pithy pragmatism. There’s also a retail economy that works smart in performance. On the set of “Sex and the City”, a crane “shining a very great light, as bright as the sun” filled her with admiration. (“And it’s because of something I wrote.”)
The stage, equipped like a dressing room the size of a living room, is dripping with shades of pink, with pairs of Manolo Blahniks encased in glowing rooms (the scenography is by Anna Louizos and the lighting by Travis McHale). Sadah Espii Proctor’s sound design cleverly evokes city scenes, from tingling brunch cutlery to the bustling traffic of Midtown. Bushnell casually walks the svelte silhouettes of costume designer Lisa Zinni, in tune with the scribe’s philosophy that fashion is fun.
Sexual agency and consumer gratification may no longer represent the very vanguard of modern feminism. (The revelation that Bushnell paid to house his own collection of terrific footwear – unlike Carrie, whose closet was a gift from Mr. Big – may not be doing its bell.) But the imaginative frame Bushnell showcased in âSex and the Cityâ has served as the foundation of popular culture – and it’s a fun playground to retread here with its sunny-voiced romantic architect.
In response to the title question, Bushnell has taken to the Hamptons, where she enjoys planting veg, staying indoors, and hula-hooping. These are the bonus years, says Bushnell, an opportunity to invigorate and reap the rewards of self-knowledge. Her own Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha have also moved into the neighborhood, proof of her lingering thesis that friendship is life’s greatest love affair.
Is there still sex in town?
Until February 6 at the Daryl Roth Theater, Manhattan; darylroththeatre.com. Duration: 1h30.