“Have you ever been handcuffed to a radiator?” A young man in a laboratory coat introduced himself to The Observer last Friday evening as we took our seats at the opening of the fall run of alternative singles night, Never Sleep Alone. Our reaction, or lack thereof, must have been transparent. “Sorry, I just need to ask you some basic erotic questions.” Oh, alright, get on, then.
It appeared that the point of this short survey was to detect our sexual energy, translated by the color of a mood mask we were given to wear for the duration of the evening.
The performance took place at Joe’s Pub, the quaint underbelly of the Public Theater—a low-lit, intimate space with a bar at one end, where the more reserved voyeurs sat, and a cluster of tables at the front, where brave singles positioned themselves vulnerably. The champagne flowed, a crucial aphrodisiac for the evening.
It quickly became clear that Dr. Alex Schiller, the sex therapist played by comedian Roslyn Hart, meant business. Dressed in black latex, there was no beating around her bush.
“NSA = NSA” appeared on a screen behind her, the opening chapter of the one-woman cabaret performance coming to life before us. “Never Sleep Alone equals no strings attached,” Dr. Schiller yelled in a broad Texan twang, “this is the number one principle.”
The audience cheered. Sleeping alone was out of the question.
With one in two houses in Manhattan being occupied by a single person, and divorce rates on the rise, an increasing number of people are searching for new and exciting ways to meet others and, as the night evolved, it appeared that Never Sleep Alone was acting as a catalyst to the process. Joel Haberli, a gentleman in the audience, explained how “as a New Yorker, this is a chance to be wacky.” Every person in the room was prepared to go home with someone at some point during the night. And why shouldn’t they?
They were amongst likeminded, young, beautiful people (many of whom had been scouted by Ms. Hart herself), who had been told, or rather commanded, by Dr. Schiller to “give each other the best possible times of their lives because—fuck it!—you’re young. Live!”
When The Observer piled into a limo with a transformed Ms. Hart once the show was over (think an older Audrey Hepburn; long black gloves, draping pearls), we asked why the online dating phenomenon wasn’t sufficient. She instantly referred to it as “bullshit … people build up too many expectations before they meet and when they meet the chemistry is blocked by the expectation and that’s another reason why I created NSA. Chemistry is fate minus logic. It’s about interaction.”
While the audience interaction was high throughout the performance (be very aware if you buy a singles ticket!), this was taken to the next level at the after party where The Observer managed to intercept a few of its revellers. A friend of Ms. Hart, a male actor who would rather not be named for obvious reasons, explained how he used the show to hook up with girls who didn’t expect to be called the following day.
He admitted it was “partly selfish,” but that it was deemed acceptable here.
We were concerned that with so much focus on a no-strings-attached mentality: were people really building their confidence, or rather knocking it down the following morning?
Then we met Joshua Karchem and Liz Lee, who, clinging to each other for dear life, explained how they’d met at a show in June and were madly in love. “The first time I went, I made out with two random hotties. The second time, I met the love of my life,” gushed Mr Karchem.
“We didn’t think they’d approve but we’re in love,” Ms Lee told us, stealing her eyes from Mr Karchem for only a second.
The Observer mulled over this at the bar, taking in the scene as the dance floor emptied and couples ran up the stairs, hand in hand. Ms. Hart had not been lying when she’d predicted 60% of the club would go home together that evening. We noticed two lonely souls next to us and suddenly found ourselves playing cupid. Within minutes, the pair was chatting, at ease in their liquidated states, before sloping off into one of the discreet booths positioned around the club, and pulling the velvet curtains behind them.