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ARTFUL HARVEST OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE PLUMBS RITE OF PASSAGE

Print Version

My First Time
Original Off-Broadway production directed and produced by Ken Davenport
A BestOfOffBroadway.com production
Directed by Jeff Szusterman

at Fortune Theatre, Dunedin
From 21 Aug 2009 to 12 Sep 2009

Reviewed by Barbara Frame, 22 Aug 2009
originally published in Otago Daily Times

This is the first time I've been to a play based on a website: one that invites people to contribute accounts of their first sexual experience. Playwright Ken Davenport has artfully harvested material and put it together as a play for four actors.

As we go into the theatre we're asked to do a little contributing of our own by filling in a questionnaire (anonymously) about our own (if we've had any yet) first times: details like who, where, when and so on. As the performance proceeds, statistics and little gems from the survey are handed to the actors and relayed back to the audience.

The actors - Danielle Mason, Jacque Drew, Roy Snow and Kristian Lavercombe - sit on high stools and tell us about the real-life experiences of hundreds of people, sometimes building up impressions with the quick retailing of many details, and at other times slowing down to tell a single story at length. The demanding script requires quick shifts from one character to the next and a wide range of ages, personalities and nationalities although, as you might expect, a majority are clearly American.

Most of the stories are told with humanity and good humour, but the variety is endless: one moment a Welshman complains earnestly that "it isn't easy being a 34-year-old virgin," shortly after that a fire-and-brimstone preacher invites our derision, and then a witless teenager is telling us a ghastly story involving drive-in movies and Coca Cola.  Audience responses range from admiration to sympathy and sometimes pity.

Just in case you're wondering, everyone keeps their clothes on, but many of the descriptions are frank, to say the least.

Sitting somewhere on the spectrum between a salacious, trite, True Confessions kind of experience and a meaningful comment on what for most human beings is a rite of passage, My First Time is thoroughly entertaining.
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 Terry MacTavish