A review of Yussef El Guindi’s “Threesome,” on stage at ACT Theatre.

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“If I were to use paint to indicate the places where my body was touched, groped or grabbed without my consent, even while wearing the hijab [Muslim veil for women], my entire torso, back and front, would be covered with color.”

So writes the activist Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy in her fiery new book, “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.”

Very similar words are spoken by the character of Leila in Yussef El Guindi’s schematic but gripping and gutsy “Threesome,” another bold and worthy effort from this important Seattle playwright.

Theater review

‘Threesome’

By Yussef El Guindi. Through June 28, ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $20 (206-292-7676 or acttheatre.org).

Portland Center Stage’s 2015 production of “Threesome,” expertly directed by Chris Coleman, has now commuted to ACT Theatre. It begins as a clever comedy of sexual manners — but one encasing a provocative and explosive drama.

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The first provocation? That would be the buck-naked nudity of Doug (played with remarkable equanimity by Quinn Franzen), a photographer who shows up for a prearranged sexual ménage à trois with an attractive, brainy couple: Egyptian-born writer Leila (Alia Attallah) and her Arab-American boyfriend Rashid (Karan Oberoi).

But the setup is essentially a strip tease as El Guindi slyly, uproariously dashes the fantasy that such assignations come with no strings attached. Unclothed or dressed, this threesome carries enough emotional, sexual and political baggage to fill several king-size beds.

The first act is a cringingly funny session of embarrassment (gross-out-humor alert!), and friction-causing needs and desires. But while El Guindi has a way with repartee, his methods are inherently serious. The laugh lines reveal character here, and raise tough questions.

Like, why would the highly cerebral, impassioned feminist Leila set up this awkward situation? Why would the begrudging, jealous Rashid agree to it? And why would Doug, once he discovered the trauma that led up to Leila’s sexual proposal, turn into everything she hopes to escape?

One is at times too much aware of the playwright’s manipulations, particularly in regard to the rather buffoonishly self-involved and over-therapized Doug.

But the deeper concerns of “Threesome” are fathoms deep. They are issues of violation, of women and men in American and Muslim culture, of the inability of even an extremely intelligent, perceptive and articulate couple to bridge the gender divide at its most subtle and most treacherous.

El Guindi later whiplashes you into a darker encounter at a photo session. And to preserve the impact, I won’t telegraph the solar-plexus punches the play ultimately delivers.

But I will praise how the actors, and Coleman, navigate so nimbly between drollery and anguish, even when the script doesn’t make it easy for them.

With her tentative, tight body language, and her polemical declarations, the excellent Attallah conjures the schism within Leila — the power and bravery, and the post-traumatic shock.

Rashid’s initial resistance to the ménage is acidly funny in Oberoi’s portrayal — and later replaced, affectingly, by repulsion and pity. Still, one is left wanting something more from the actor and/or the script.

Franzen is very amusing, while trying his considerable best to make Doug more than a childish jerk who is out of his depth, and constantly challenged by worldlier and more evasive company.

But of course it’s El Guindi doing the challenging here. And placing a naked actor onstage for nearly an hour is a small part of that. He won’t let us hold one character, or society, or religion responsible for what transpires among these people. And he won’t let us underestimate the extent of women’s physical vulnerability, or men’s ambivalence in dealing with it.

The bottom line: Yes, “Threesome” is rhetorical. But it is not simplistic.