There is some utterly joyous dialogue in the City Lights production of First Day of School, a play big on heart and joy. And while there were pieces of the play that I could not relate to at all, thank goodness, there were plenty of moments that definitely hit me where I live.
While the production is not one that I loved, it is one that I enjoyed and was entertained by for sure. It did not take long for the production drag me in. My two little girls are six and four, and my wife and I are awash in playdates, youth soccer and hoping for the best teachers that will tap into their eager, yet stubborn little minds.
But where my own mindset into this joyous piece of our familys history ends, a very odd new fascination for these characters begins. It starts off so innocuously irreverent for the sublimely chipper married couple David and Susan:
Hey, why dont we have sex with other people! says David.
Thats a great idea!, opines Susan.
And it is with this drop of a brilliant little idea that the banality of their lives takes a turn for the sexy. No longer is there absolute devastation when they learn that the annual first day of school bagel breakfast is cancelled. Thats because there is a much hotter breakfast waiting somewhere out there. Both David and Susan are off to the races, selecting their willing partners in their hot little game. While their elementary-aged children are smacking a ball on the schoolyard, their parents are, well, ready to play a more all-inclusive version elsewhere.
For them, having sex with other people is just simply a good idea. The request to the potential targets has the same effect on each of them. Extreme flattery, maddening disgust, absolute hornification, you name it. And while each of the potential targets have wildly different reactions, once they do some heavy thinking out loud, this shocking little morsel of a request moves quickly into one helluva good idea.
The play featured staples of the City Lights experience inventive staging by director Virginia Drake and a witty blue collar set designed by Ron Gasparinetti.
And while the storyline is a fun, zippy ride, the fatal flaw of this play is that the characters are not people that we are really pulling for. And its not that theyre bad people, but they are certainly folks you dont give a huge hoot about. Even though by and large, the production was a solid one, the storyline or writing didnt always scale high on the engagement meter.
One thing that was cohered nicely was the performances of the principals. It wasnt always the actor that maintained the dialogue focus in a given moment that was the most interesting. Quite frankly, some of the best acting work was done by the target, the listener in the scene. Each of the potential sex toys had long, flowing, sweeping monologues, but what was wonderful was the listening being done by the one who made the offer. The ubiquitous Tom Gough, a South Bay theatre veteran, was wonderful in this regard. His comic timing, harnessed for many years with Comedysportz, the improvisation troupe a stones throw away from City Lights, was impeccable. Ripe with a big, goofy smile, jeans up to his chest with a nice, striped polo shirt tucked in tightly, Gough was all heart, prowling the stage like a big teddy bear. That is if the teddy bear followed you around wanting to get it on.
His wife Susan, played by Diahanna Davidson was also a joyous co-conspirator. Courtney Walsh was a wonderful Alice, a woman so driven by her own insecurity and neurosis that her hair pulled a Cameron Diaz in Theres Something About Mary.
Throw in Mandy Manousos in a scene-stealing performance as Kim, a sultry sexpot who paraded around in a tight brown sweat suit, pulling a page out of the hilarious orgasmic fakebook, and what you have is a show, while not spectacular, is still workmanlike solid.
The first day of school is truly a special time of year. And with the City Lights tagline for the new season to bring sexy back, The First Day of School, certainly brings about a new round of playdates that are ripe with possibilities.
City Lights Theater Company presents the South Bay premiere of First Day of School
Written by Billy Aronson
Directed by Virginia Drake
Thursdays Sundays through Oct. 24th
Tickets range from $15 – $35
City Lights Theatre Company is located at 529 South Second Street
San José, California 95112
For tickets, call (408) 295-4200 or visit the official website.
David is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Email him at [email protected]
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