Mark Brian Sonna’s Comedy of Love stars Collin Miller (not pictured), Dion B. Monroe, Mars Vazquez Clubb and Sara Nichole Thompson

Actor, playwright Mark-Brian Sonna premiers new play for production company’s 20th anniversary


After writing almost 40 plays, Mark-Brian Sonna is back with a new story exploring relationships, sexuality and emotional attraction. Comedy of Love is based in part on Sonna’s own life, as well as real life stories from his friends and former lovers.

Comedy of Love follows two couples, one gay and one straight presenting, over a seven-year period. Despite their differences, both couples deal with the same struggles as emotions and situations fluctuate over time. The characters are amalgamations of real people, and they find humor not in one-liners but in disagreements and passive aggression. Audiences are sure to connect with the play, which offers a look at how love changes over time in a relationship.

This is not Sonna’s first foray into the semi-autobiographical. His first ever work back in the 1980s, Persistence in Memory, was based on a real-life experience that was dramatic enough to warrant a play. It was after this that he founded MBS Productions, with the mission of only performing new, original works.

In 2014, after the end of a 17-year-long relationship, Sonna was inspired to write Dream Café based on his year of rebound. The play consists of six different vignettes from Sonna’s own life with some of his friends’ stories folded in. In fact, some of the dialogue comes directly from things people really said to him.

Sonna recalls when one of his ex-lovers was ending things with him. “Even as he was breaking up with me, I was thinking everything he was saying would be fabulous dialogue,” Sonna said. “All my friends know that if they say something to me, it might end up in one of my plays.”

Dion B. Monroe, right, and Mars Vazquez Clubb star in Mark Brian Sonna’s Comedy of Love.

The genius of Dream Café? When the six scenes are performed in chronological order, they reflect Sonna’s real life. But at the beginning of each show, the audience decides the order of scenes, creating a different story every time.

Sonna’s most recent work takes on a more serious tone than most of his other plays. A few years ago, his close friend Frank passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack, leaving Sonna heartbroken. The two had known each other for a long time and had a yearly tradition of traveling together. Both men were in long-term relationships, but because of job commitments, it made more sense for them to ditch their partners and go on vacation together.

Despite the two only being close friends and never sleeping together, both of their partners were always wary of infidelity. “Every year when we would come back, our partners would grill us about what happened,” Sonna remembered.

Then one year, Frank broke up with his partner, and things were rough in Sonna’s relationship. Frank asked him if they should get together after all these years.

“Everyone was always joking that Frank and I seemed like the better couple,” Sonna explained. “But I wasn’t ready to give up on a 12-year relationship. I wanted to just stay friends.”

The next year, Frank and his partner had reconciled, but Sonna’s relationship had ended. He approached Frank about getting together, but this time Frank was the one to say no.

The two continued traveling together every year, with the silent understanding that if things didn’t work out in Frank’s relationship, they would get together.

Finally came a year where both men were single. They had a trip planned and were going to talk about their relationship with each other. But before this could happen, Frank passed away suddenly.

“I was heartbroken and devastated,” Sonna said. “But I didn’t know how to express this, because no one knew we were having this secondary relationship.”

After giving himself time to process, Sonna was able to open up to his friends, which helped alleviate the lack of closure from Frank’s sudden end. He then began drafting his experience into a play.

For his creative process, Sonna usually writes the initial draft in 48 hours, and this time was no different. But at the end of drafting, he knew he was going to need a different structure. “If I wrote it literally as it happened, it wouldn’t work. It wasn’t compelling,” Sonna said. “The dynamics were relatable but the experience too singular.”

To make it more universal, Sonna incorporated experiences from his friends. He explored situations where sexual attraction doesn’t line up with emotional attraction and how sexual connection can change in a relationship over time.

Sonna realized that because this was a memory play, he needed a different structure than typical contemporary works. Inspired by 18th century playwright Pierre de Marivaux, he created a three-act work where the characters directly address the audience.

“This allowed for different perspectives on the same incident, for the characters to fill in each other’s stories,” Sonna explained.

His cast has found the play articulating things they’ve felt in relationships but have never been able to explain. In fact, the cast has been so enthusiastic about this work, all the actors were off book before deadline.

“This is a dream cast, and I can’t wait for audiences to see Comedy of Love,” concluded Sonna.

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