In a city of eight million people and endless possibilities, how can there be so many single men and women out there? Just ask Dr. Alex Schiller, sexual psychologist, musical therapist and featured in the new one-woman show Never Sleep Alone. Starring Roslyn Hart as Schiller at the Public Theater, Never Sleep Alone is a comedy and cabaret act that brings people together for a night of entertainment, interaction and possibly even more.
Hart, a solo performer whose most recent show, Shells, was performed in residence at the Public Theater for more than three years, said the inspiration for Never Sleep Alone came from her observations on the dating scene in New York, both as a participant and a voyeur. She has noticed that everyone is longing to connect, but for many different reasons, connections don’t happen. Never Sleep Alone is styled as a seminar going over the chapters of Dr. Alex’s book Get Laid or Die Trying. Leading the seminar, Dr. Alex invites people who are sitting in the singles section to interact in various ways. The audience is seated in two sections – single and voyeurs – and Hart assured that she seats an equal number of straight men and women in the singles section.
Hart said Never Sleep Alone offers audience members a chance to meet people they never would have met before, under circumstances more typical of their everyday lives. And, she added, they will meet face to face, offering a chance for a real emotional and hormonal connection.
“It is a show that single and non-single people can enjoy,” she said. “Whether you’re looking to hook up or not, it’s an amazing show. The comedy is smart, irreverent – it’s responding to what’s happening in New York City right now, in the dating scene now.
“Imagine if Billy Graham is preaching the gospel of getting laid,” she added. “It is over the top and fun, but she is actually giving good advice. The audience can laugh at her while laughing at themselves. She’s there to get her audience to connect with each other.”
Hart shared a few of her show’s success stories (anonymously, of course!), some of which are long-lasting. During one performance, she invited two gay men to demonstrate how they need to communicate with each other. Each one had five words to make the other man want him. And those five words seemed to work. The two kissed on the stage, in front of the entire audience and are still together four months later.
“It’s a very no-pressure night,” Hart said of the show’s demonstrations and interactive exercises. “One of Dr. Alex’s big philosophies is No Strings Attached. There’s no risk, no expectations…you’re going out to have a good time and be in a room with a bunch of strangers who are there for the exact same thing you are.”
Hart assures that no one should feel nervous or awkward at a performance of Never Sleep Alone. The character of Dr. Alex is the one who is the goofball.
“I like to make people look good,” she said. “Dr. Alex is the stupid one. I’ve never really had anyone come off as awkward or stupid. It’s like Dr. Alex is awakening the things you already knew. Be yourself, be bold and talk to the person next to you and magic can happen.”
The atmosphere of the room definitely contributes to the chances of hooking up, which she said are fairly high. “When you get that much sexual energy in a room, you can feel it. It’s definitely palpable.”
Never Sleep Alone addresses the fear of interacting with strangers, which Hart said as a unique aspect of modern-day dating and holds people back.
“I think it’s very interesting that people are willing to put all their personal information on the internet. Facebook, Craigslist, March…all of their expectations, personal information and seek out total strangers – but they are afraid to talk to strangers at a bar or a museum or a show,” she said. “Everyone sits really closed off. I don’t know if it’s the proliferation of communication – online virtual communication that’s taken away people’s actual communication, but single people aren’t communicating on an actual level anymore.”
Another aspect of modern love that Hart addresses is the phenomenon of self-help books, which she thinks do offer good advice. However, they do not make the readers actually do anything.
“You can sit and read a book all day, but if you don’t go out and practice those things, you’re never going to meet anybody,” she said. “This show gives you a chance to apply what you’ve just learned.”
Following the show, Hart hosts an after party in a top-secret location that differs after each performance and is announced onstage. The party is another aspect of what she believes makes Never Sleep Alone a great Thursday night out on the town.
“People get all dressed up and spend tons of money and usually for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen for them,” she said. “So you end your night disappointed. This is a way to end your night happy. You’re going to drink and sing. At the very least, you’re going to laugh your ass off.”
If nothing else, Never Sleep Alone offers a unique night out on the town.
“Here’s a chance to come to a theatrical show – a comedy cabaret – and you’re going to be sitting next to a straight man,” she said. “That in itself is amazing.”