In a time when movements like #MeToo and #BelieveWomen are indicative of major social change in the United States, a play like Love by Kate Cortesi reexamines the often blurred lines of consent and power dynamics in the workplace.
On Nov. 6, 2020 the Loyola Marymount University Department of Theatre Arts and Dance live-streamed a staged reading of Cortesi’s play. In Love, Penelope (played by junior Bella Hartman) has a close relationship with her ex-boss Otis (played by senior Daniel Levy), who also happens to be her former lover.
Penelope is taken aback when other former employees of Otis come to her asking if she wants to be a part of the group going public with allegations of sexual harassment. Penelope can’t believe what she hears and is deeply disturbed by the testimony against Otis. She considered her relationship with Otis purely consensual and loving.
“I think something really important that the show hits on is that coercion is not consent. And that seems like that’s kind of a thing that’s cropped up since the #MeToo movement. The idea that if you coerce someone into saying yes, when they would have originally said no, they did not consent,” says Dylan Marusich, an LMU senior who plays Jaime, Penelope’s friend turned husband.
She has to come to terms with the fact that the claims the other women are making might be true despite the fact that Otis was not predatory toward her. In acknowledging both sides of the story, she wrestles with her own experience with Otis and questions whether what she went through with him was truly consensual or not.
This story suggests that the idea of truth is always subjective and that when power imbalances are built into a system that inherently can exploit women, it is important to carefully analyze certain exchanges. Love highlights the need for society to change the narratives surrounding consent in sexual relationships.
“Coming forward about a sexual assault is really difficult. And really, really brave, because I think we see so many times that women came forward and people were like, “you’re lying and trying to ruin his life,” and they get pigeonholed,” says Marusich. Love prompts the audience to consider what true consent is and what it means to be a man in a position of power.