By Tulis McCall
Candace Bushnell is not an actor. She is a feminist who has learned to dust her message with a layer of sugar so that it will be heard. She detailed her own travels through the maze of career, love, individual challenges and mistakes – she was a vagabond often staying in other people’s apartments – who focused like a heat seeking missile on her identity as a writer. She is the creator of “Sex and the City” that first appeared as a column in The New York Observer on Nov. 28, 1994. She eventually created a character, Carrie Bradshaw, who could do Candace Bushnell one better and not get called out. Her columns were collected and published as a book in 1996. Two years later, Sex In The City appeared on our television screen. You know the rest.
For those white women in their 30’s back in 1998, the show was a revelation. Their personal “me too” moment with some very fancy accessories and an apartment on Perry Street tossed in. These characters were women who were not following the recipe of what a successful woman was. They were following their own guidance systems. And no apologies were necessary. Sex, orgasms, pregnancy – everything was on the table.
As the stage show opens, Ms. Bushnell says “I’m going to tell you how I wrote Sex and the City, how hard I worked to get there, why I invented Carrie Bradshaw and what happened to me afterward. I’ll answer some of your most burning questions…” A delicious promise to them that care. And there were many in this tiny audience (Dwarfed by the DR2 capacity) who wanted to know. I didn’t, having watched the show maybe three times before I gave up on it. For me it was a snore.
No matter my lack of interest or insider knowledge about the TV series. Bushnell is at the ready with stories that will make your head spin. She grew up in Connecticut in the 1960’s. Her mother made her a fashionista, and her father assigned her the task of being so successful she would change the world. Bushnell made herself into a feminist. At a very young age she discovered that women’s career possibilities were limited: nurse, teacher, secretary, or librarian. And even at that, their power was limited because women could not have their own personal credit cards. Yes this is true. (Gerald Ford signed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age in credit transactions.” Thank Ruth Bader Ginsberg for her legal work on that one.)
This show is not a play or even a one-woman-show. It is a lecture, and an intriguing and inspiring one at that. Bushnell may have been in involved with high profile men – Gordon Parks and Senator Al D’Amato are mentioned – but she did not rely on them. She invented herself. Like the way she invented Carrie Bradshaw. She arrived here with $20 in her pocket and, as they say, never looked back. She was married to dancer Charles Askegard for several years before their divorce. She admits, or kind of glosses over, to the fact that she had an abortion – this would have been a great moment to shine light on the subject. Bushnell chooses to leap over it as well as her thoughts of suicide and focus on how her friends Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha who come to her rescue.
Bushnell has accomplished a boatload, and it seems she wants us to know each and every one of the events in her life. This is where the boat begins to list and we float off course. She changes into one odd outfit after another – her wardrobe does not live up to her exploits – telephones transition in style to show time passing, and we even meet her two Doodles who are tethered to an off stage handler. It all becomes too much of a muchness and we collapse under the weight.
Bushnell finds no north star, no destination, no center. The show begins – carries on – then ends. She promises not to write about her friends, she breaks that promise, and everyone carries on. Over and over again.
With 10 books, a crop of who’s-who friends, and a few television series under her belt, Bushnell has many a tale to tell. And observations to share.
In many ways Bushnell did affect a generation of women, maybe more. Time to take a bow. She is her own character. Now all she needs is a podium and an editor. She already has the audience.
Is There Still Sex In The City? by Candace Bushnell, Directed by Lorin Latarro
Scenic design by Anna Louizos; costume design by Lisa Zinni; lighting design by Travis McHale; sound design by Sadah Espii Proctor; and projection design by Caite Hevner.
The Daryl Roth Theatre (101 E. 15th St.) through February 6, 2022
Tickets start at $49. For complete details and to purchase tickets, please click HERE or call 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400.