Loose Pieces Lead to Grand Finales

Romi Shraiter (left) and Jonas Chernick (right) in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. Photo by Randy deKleine-Stimpson.

A humorous and intriguing play that will leave one thinking about it for days to come. Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, and revolves around Jon, a famous writer and professor, and Annie, a 19 year-old student of his fan of his work. The play is portrayed through Jon’s point of view and throughout the course of the performance his and Annie’s relationship grows from a teacher-student bond to a tumultuous love story. Given their fairly large age gap and Jon’s position of power, their relationship faces obstacles that will need to be conquered. The play is filled with countless humorous moments while also highlighting a piece of work created for the post meToo era.

Jonas Chernick and Romi Shraiter are exceptional in their roles as Jon and Annie respectively. They seem comfortable together and their charisma was what really made the show for me. Each is extremely funny and makes a somewhat impractical premise seem practical through their fantastic chemistry.

The dialogue is amusing, clever, and flows fairly well. I was laughing out loud on countless occasions from raunchy and smart humour. There were, however, times I found myself thrown off by parts of the dialogue that seemed somewhat unrealistic given the teacher-student premise. These scenes mainly happen before they have sex (which happens a handful of times) and the dialogue leading up to this feels a bit over-dramatized and unrealistic. With that being said, there is a twist at the end of the play that shines a new light on this, making the unrealistic dialogue coherent within the context of the story. 

Jon also talks about himself in third person which can be confusing, but the end makes sense of this too. I love when shows have loose pieces that don’t seem to add up throughout the performance, but bridges the gaps in the end. After this performance and on the drive home, I caught myself trying to connect these loose pieces which I loved doing. 

I do have very mixed opinions on the performance’s conclusion. One of the last scenes takes place four years after they met. Annie is working as a young aspiring writer and Jon just released a new and successful book. In this scene, Annie is shown as more assertive through her tone of voice and her action in controlling the narrative of her story, highlighting the post meToo aspect of this work which I loved. With that being said, the scene seemed jarring and out of place given its execution. Time jumps can be used to great effect, but in this case it felt a bit awkward. There was hardly time to breathe and now these two individuals are acting atypically compared to the way they were portrayed merely 30 seconds ago. This is due to the awkward and quick four year jump.

I also found it very interesting how the stage and audience was set up by set designer Michelle Bohn. The theatre is a black box with seats along three sides of the perimeter. I was on the left side of the seats meaning I was looking at the performance side on. The show is being performed on a stage which is split into two sections. There is an elevated section upstage which is used as “the indoors” (Jon’s office, house, or hotel room). While downstage there is fake grass used as a green space (University campus or the front of Jon’s house). This setup succeeds when Jon is speaking to the audience. He uses the whole green space and addresses each section of the audience creating engaging scenes. The parts where I think it fails are the scenes that only take place on the small elevated part of the stage. Due to its limited space and the seating of the audience, I was looking at Jon’s or Annie’s back on many occasions which took me out of the performance. If I was seated in the central seats and not off to the side I think this would not have bothered me as much.

As I stated before, the play is very funny while at times, it gets serious. These transitions are handled well in a way that does not seem out of place. The humour throughout is very raunchy though and definitely should not be viewed by folks below the age of 18. 

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is a funny and surprisingly thought provoking love story given the beautifully executed twist ending. Chernick and Shraiter are phenomenal as the two leads and will keep yoneou entranced throughout its 90 minute runtime. 

‘Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes’ is running until October 1st at the Thousand Island Playhouse’s Firehall Theatre and more information can be found here.

This article was edited on December 1st, 2023 to update formatting.