One-act play ‘Dirty Old Woman’ strips away the double standard

By Jennie Orton
Playing with relationship stigmas, Dirty Old Woman is as fun as it is thought-provoking.

Playing with relationship stigmas, Dirty Old Woman is as fun as it is thought-provoking.

VANCOUVER — There is something about the idea of a woman over 50 having a sexual appetite. Whereas the idea of a May-December romance between an older man and a younger woman has held inspirational appeal in both art and in life for centuries, the reversal of roles seems to be seen as downright provocative and almost always amusing.

For her celebrated one-act play Dirty Old Woman, playwright Loretta Seto found within this double standard — as well as from feedback from her single 60-something female friends — inspiration for a story about what happens when an older woman has the gall to start dating a much younger man.

“In some ways I think there is an expectation when looking at women who are older that they aren’t supposed to be interested in sex anymore, they’re not expected to be sexual or sexy,” says Seto. “You’re the grandmother now as opposed to a sexual being.”

The play follows Nina, a 50-year old woman dating a 20-year old man, as she deflects and absorbs the roadblocks and pratfalls that come within that territory. The result is an honest and, at times, quite funny exploration of romance attempting to flourish in a situation deemed abnormal.

“There is a stigma that it isn’t a relationship that is necessarily going to last, that it’s just a sort of passing thing, or that he’s using her for a specific reason,” Seto says. “It can’t just be two people who maybe connect or just like each other.”

Though the story may appear at first glance to have an agenda to unearth an unjust stigma threatening to prevent single women everywhere from enjoying fresh meat without scorn, what emerges is a more universal study of how we view romantic unions in general.

“It kind of asks why do we have expectations? Why do we have judgements about certain configurations of relationships?” muses Seto.

Dirty Old Woman seeks to leave the audience with the feeling that sexuality, love, and drive can belong to anyone regardless of age and should be embraced and explored with healthy vigor.

Dirty Old Woman runs at the Culture Lab from April 12-24.

, , , , ,