During a sex scene in the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character announces from beneath the sheets, ‘This is the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.’ Crowtown Theatre Company’s production of Bonk! isn’t much fun and I didn’t laugh. The act of sex isn’t inherently funny or really all that interesting to anyone except the parties directly involved. People and all their sexual neuroses are funny. If Bonk! focused more on relatable human characters and less of a slew of of bland sitcom robots, it might manage to be more than occasionally mildly humorous.
Bonk! is adapted from a book of the same title by Mary Roach. I’m not sure why anyone reading non-fiction about the science of sex would immediately feel that it was destined to be a stage production but it perhaps it might have worked. Maybe the book is actually amusing. The show, however, has all the comedic brilliance of the commentary from the back row of a Year 8 sex-ed class. We meet a remarkably dull sex researcher, (Anh Chu), who’s about to lose her funding unless she comes up with something revolutionary. Meanwhile, her husband, (Adam Courting), worries that their love life is getting too mixed up with her work. Her lab assistant is having an affair with her husband’s friend and her students are an immature bunch interested in the phenomena of distance ejaculation competitions (exactly what it sounds like, still not funny). None of these characters are terribly compelling - they’re just around to set up a variety of stale jokes. A woman faking an orgasm in a public place is a gag that rightfully belongs to When Harry Met Sally. In this case, I really didn’t want to have what she was having. The condom-on-a-banana bit is as old and unfunny as someone slipping on a banana peel.
The show also contains three songs but unfortunately, none of them are remotely funny, and the whole effort at cheerful musical interludes just comes across as filler. The cast may well be talented comedians, but with a script as wooden as this it’s impossible to tell. The best bits were quick improvised asides to the audience (‘Can YOU do that?’) and Courting’s cameo as an animal sex expert who explains exactly how hedgehogs mate, (yes, very carefully, but there’s more to it than that).
Mixing tired sex jokes with a mess of scientific jargon is about as hilarious as the Kinsey Report. Perhaps Roach’s book is funny and informative, but as a show Bonk! is tired, dull, and flaccid. Am I allowed to say flaccid? I think in this context I am certainly allowed to say flaccid. Flaccid flaccid flaccid.