'First Day of School' Is Sex- Filled and Satisfying
Monday, October 5, 2009
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Theater
With the end of September, back-to-school season is officially over. Many devoted parents let their children go for the first time; they packed "big kid" lunches with tears in their eyes and said nostalgic goodbyes to the little darlings who, only a few short years ago, were still incapable of wiping their own tushes.
You will find no such sentimentality in Billy Aronson's comedy "The First Day of School". The playwright's resume credits him with the original concept for "Rent" and as a writer for MTV's iconic cartoon "Beavis and Butthead." Now he's tackling the timeless quest to lead a purpose-filled existence and alleviate loneliness with human connection, all through the playfulness of slapstick and the familiarity of contemporary suburbia. The 90-minute play runs without intermission, sustaining a fast pace with the rapid fire of witty dialogue and never wasting an opportunity for laughter.
When loving parents Susan (Zehra Berkman) and David (Bill English) hand their youngest child over to the public education system, they waste no time exploring unknown territory. With their hours of freedom, they find the elementary school halls fertile ground for recruiting fellow parents as sex partners.
The play gains momentum and lots of laughs with the appearance of Peter (Jackson Davis), the endearingly awkward, sexually repressed and neurotic artist. Davis is hilarious as he stumbles through a series of revealing self-justifications that culminate in one absurd conclusion: Accepting Susan's sexual solicitation and embracing his natural urges will actually make him a better, healthier father-a "will-screw-for-the-children" kind of altruism.
Both of David's female "recruitments" deliver comedic performances as nuanced and dynamic as their characters. Marcia Pizzo brings empathy and likability to the potentially irritating Kim, a sex-starved, overachieving PTA autocrat. As Alice, Stacy Ross brings a subtle vulnerability to the seemingly insensitive super-power lawyer.
Oddly enough, it's never really clear why Susan and David initiate this sexual do-si-do in the first place. They seem to be a strange breed of happy and have a model relationship. They enthusiastically encourage one another to live to their fullest potential and to find new "playmates"; they share equal partnership and responsibilities in their attentive childcare and personify the genial wholesomeness equal to a 1950s sitcom, aside from the annual menage-a-cinq.
Peter, Kim and Alice are the most relatable and dynamic characters. While Susan and David simply want to try something new, there are serious implications for the other three members in their acknowledgment of middle-class suburban disillusionment. The characters in crisis remain the comic core of the production and sustain the cheery aura before the ending's somber turn.
"First Day of School" is an engaging and thoughtful comedy. What starts as a lighthearted subversion of suburban life slows its speed in the end and takes on a philosophical mood, substituting verbal play with references to "Walden," death and existentialism. While Susan and David are content in their marriage, the other three are left with emptiness and the continued search for meaning. When the novelty of the orgies fades away, they must again confront the fact that they still haven't found what they're looking for. The play makes a point not to answer its many questions, suggesting that in a world of communication overload, the only thing that cannot be substituted is a genuine connection to other people.
Reminisce about elementary school with Jennafer at [email protected]
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