The Life was a Broadway musical nominated for 12 Tony Awards, breaking records at the time, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award as Best Broadway Musical and Tony’s for Lillias White and Chuck Cooper. Its premise revolved around Queen (Pamela Isaacs), Lillias White (Sonya) and the colorful men and women that inhabited Times Square in Mid-town Manhattan prior to Disney’s takeover of the theater district. With a book by Ira Gasman and Academy Award winner David Newman and music from the legendary Cy Coleman, The Life certainly had its share of critics and naysayers not seeking to embrace the image of a mostly Black cast portraying hookers and pimps.
What most failed to realize is this story revolved around relationships and a bestie friendship between characters that just happened to be in ‘the life.’ I should know, I was one of the cast members of this uniquely controversial show. It’s one of the reasons, I was intrigued to check out Sell/Buy/Date and no I’m not talking about dairy or meat products.
After a triumphant stage production, Tony award winner Sarah Jones makes her writing/directing debut bringing her “unorthodoc” to the screen centering in and around the world of sex workers while taking us on a journey through her own grief of a loved one with Sell/Buy/Date.
Sex workers are the most understood entrepreneurs on the globe. They are reviled, disrespected, disregarded and mostly misunderstood. With a myriad of colorful, full of commentary characters ranging from a Jewish grandmother, college sophomore studying sex work, Puerto Rican/Dominican activist and a Uber driver/entrepreneur all portrayed by Jones, they all embark upon a Vegas road trip in order to get to the heart of the matter.
Sell/Buy/Date is engaging for its unapologetic manner of storytelling permeating every nook and cranny of the sex working industry with humor, candor and illuminating facts along the way while exploring how this industry sits at the intersection of race, feminism, power and economics within our current cultural climate.
Jones even incorporates the struggles of being a creator dealing with ideas and opinions of your work that differ from your vision to one extent or another and finding an emotional route to navigate through it all. All the while getting guidance from Mommy along the way. The discussions and tales with sex workers ranging from the Bunny Ranch dolls to high priced call girls hiding in plain sight are just as complex to tell as they are to listen to. Nevertheless making for some eye-opening and fact checking convo.
Sell/Buy/Date had its world premiere at the SXSW 2022 Film Festival and produced by Oscar winner Meryl Streep, believe me when I tell you Sarah Jones goes all the way there in more ways than one.