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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Get Tickets!

If you’re wondering if “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man” actually works, consider this: The show’s playwright skipped the national tour’s kick-off because his wife was in labor. The tour started here in Des Moines back in 2015 while Matt Murphy was at a hospital in New York.

“I was in the delivery room with my wife, and my phone starts blowing up,” he recalled. “The lighting designer, the stage manager, the technical director – they were all texting: ‘Oh my god, they love it! This scene killed it! The audience is going crazy!’”

Murphy’s wife was going crazy for her own reasons, but the father’s pride was twofold: Both his baby and his play were big hits. And now that the tour is returning to the Temple Theater four years later, he can hardly believe how each has grown.

“It’s really been quite special,” he said.

The original “Sex Tips” production wrapped up a nearly 5-year run last summer in New York, a second production is in Las Vegas, and the national tour is still going strong, thanks in part to its debut in Iowa.

“We were astounded by the success in Des Moines,” Murphy said. “It was beyond our most hopeful aspirations.”

If you missed it the first time around, even with the extra performances, all you really need to know is that it delivers on the promise of the title. The show is based on the best-selling book by the same name, which Maggie Berman (the straight woman) co-wrote with her friend Dan Anderson (the gay man) after some of her girlfriends started pestering him for advice.

In Murphy’s adaptation for the stage, the three-character comedy takes place in a college lecture hall, where a mousy English professor named Robyn moderates a book talk with Dan, the sexpert author. And wouldn’t you know it, the stage assistant happens to be a hunk named Stefan.

The audience doubles for the book talk and the play itself, which “gives them the right amount of distance,” Murphy said. “Since they see things through Robyn’s eyes, they get to experience everything she does without having it all up in their face.”

Some of those in-your-face shows, like “Naked Boys Singing!” and “50 Shades: The Musical Parody,” have proven popular for bachelorette parties and girls’ or guys’ nights out. But “Sex Tips” has caught on with couples, Murphy said, because it’s also a romantic comedy. Robyn and Stefan get to know each other even with the blindfolds and the feather tickler.

As you might expect, the national tour has picked up some tricks on the road. Whenever a new actor subs in, he or she introduces new quirks that eventually get folded into the permanent direction – a pause here, a gesture there.

Each tweak tightened the story so when Murphy’s sister saw the show in Cleveland a couple of years after seeing it in New York, she was almost dismayed by how funny it had become.

“I was looking around and everyone was laughing,” she told him later. “Don’t these people know my brother wrote this? Don’t they know he’s just some guy from Indiana?”

Maybe not, but they were satisfied by the end of the night.


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