MiniReview: "Sextet" by Morris Panych

Damien Atkins and (the back of) Matthew Edison in the production at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, in November 2014.

What is it?

It’s a play by Canadian playwright Morris Panych, originally produced in Toronto in 2014.


What’s it about?

Six members of a chamber orchestra are staying at a motel at the end of a tour, and they have discussions about love, sex, attachment, relationships, parenthood.


Right. And they’re all queer, these musicians?

No, a couple of them are.


Okay, but the balance shifts enough in the queer direction that we’re talking about this play here.

Yes, which was a surprise to me. I wasn’t reading the play with the intention of reviewing it here. I didn’t even know Morris Panych is gay. But he is, and this play is totally queer. Even the straight characters come off pretty queer. Essentially, what you have here are six people who really don’t fit into the heteronormative mould. There’s a male cellist who is celibate, not wanting to embrace his homosexuality. There’s the bisexual guy married to the seemingly straight-as-an-arrow religious woman who has nevertheless chosen to be impregnated with the egg and sperm of two of the other musicians. Then there’s the stud who sees himself as God’s gift to women, until he discovers maybe he could be God’s gift to men too, and how cool would that be? And the highly sexed woman in love with the gay guy. And the hyper-romantic straight guy.


Wow, quite a crew. And they just talk?

Well, they do a bit more than talk. But mostly they talk. And it’s funny and perceptive. And a lot of it’s about sex, in a disruptive way. Like this: “If only penises didn’t have men attached to them.”



One. It’s a fun play, one that invites us all to be more open in our thinking, to break through barriers of rigid definitions of gay/straight, monogamous/non-monogamous, love/sex, heteronormative/queer. There’s nothing mind-blowing here, but it’s a good read. And, I imagine, even better seen in a theatre.

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