Happiness is at risk in the final play of the season from Portland Stage. Whether fate, friends or fooling around can save it remains to be seen.

This world premiere production of Marisa Smith’s comedy, “Sex and Other Disturbances,” which was workshopped last year at Portland Stage’s Little Festival of the Unexpected, visits some middle-class urbanites as they work through mid-life crises and struggle to find a way forward.

Rather raucous at times, the play may teeter just a bit as it tries hard to keep on the lighter side of some serious issues. But, thanks to a strong cast, crisp direction and impressive production values, it ultimately succeeds in making for an enjoyable 90 minutes at the theater.

Sarah (Anney Giobbe), an aspiring actress, is unhappy in her marriage to tax lawyer husband Alan (Christopher Holt), who is obsessed with preparing for a coming apocalypse by building a giant compost heap in Newfoundland. She falls into an affair with a young acting student named Niko (George Psomas), whose exaggerated romanticism and Hollywood dreams give her hope for a better life.

Friend Ruth (Jennifer Regan), suffering her own unfaithful spouse, counsels Sarah that she’s confusing a distraction with a real way out of her current doldrums.

Giobbe and Regan make convincing friends – the impulsive, overheated Sarah and the cynic-with-a-heart-of-gold Ruth. Giobbe embodies pent-up frustration while Regan, whether reacting to Sarah’s new-age philosophical pronouncements or, later, Alan’s awkward advances, proves a hilarious scene-stealer.


Local favorite Holt draws laughs as a likable worrywart whose cardigan and slippers seem to place him a world away from the others. One of the better of several bits of physical comedy involves him in a drunken tangle with Regan.

Eden Malyn and George Psomas appear in “Sex and Other Disturbances.”

Eden Malyn rounds out the cast as Niko’s girlfriend, Kelsey. Tasked with providing a darker turn in the second half of the play, she and Psomas broadly enact the dangerous allure of youth.

The spacious New York apartment sets by Anita Stewart, with rotating and sliding walls, facilitate the fast-paced approach of director Nadia Tass. The costumes by Kenisha Kelly serve the characters’ personae well.

This new comedy arguably doesn’t offer the best answers. But, with likable characters and ample laughs, it asks some not-so-simple questions in an entertaining way.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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