How To… Sex Education

by John Stoltenberg

Rabble Crew Productions has a proclivity for mounting edgy, sex-themed theater in fringey places around town. Last December they did Madeline Farrington’s Glory Us at The Fridge in Eastern Market, set in the world of Tinder and anonymous sex. My DC Metro Arts colleague Robert Michael Oliver caught it and called it a “sexual medley for the electronically horny (and lonely) modern world.” In 2014’s Capital Fringe they did Kelly Canavan’s Writing Miss Clark’s Résumé (directed her sister Emily Caravan), an unnerving dark comedy that included sexual contact between a teacher and her students.

Along these licentious lines, Rabble Crew has produced two weekends of pop-up playlets collectively titled How To…Sex Education at the DC Arts Center black box in Adams Morgan. Each weekend features a different bill of four 15-minute one-acts staged by DC-based writers, directors, and actors. I attended the first one and (no double entendre intended) found more than enough pleasures to want to come again.

Hardcore Normcore
Written and directed by Madeline Farrington

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From left: Madeline Farrington (Clara),  Tim Trueheart (Ike)

Clara and Ike are biking to an ABC store from a party where Clara got so wasted she should  not be operating machinery of any kind. Their quite funny dialog, a lot of it sending up  liberal do-gooderism, includes jokes such as one about her mishearing racing for racist. It’s made all the more amusing by Farrington’s loopy out-of-it-ness. At issue is whether they are a match. “I don’t want to live in your normcore world!” she tells him. Then Clara insists he feel her breast. He obliges. Distracted, they crash, their bikes are totaled, and she lands banged up and delirious in a hospital bed with Ike loyally at her side.


American Piety
Written by Matt Spangler and directed by Emily Canavan

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From left: Timothy R. King (Goodman Mather). Pooja Chawla (Abigail), Noah Sommer (Malachi), Yvonne Paretzky (Goody Tituba), and Cristen Stephansky (Betty).

The satiric setup is very clever:  A sex-education class in the Plymouth Colony led by a pious scold of a preacher named Goodman Mather. The students dutifully learn their lessons, but their class is interrupted when Goody Tituba arrives and takes over. Goody, in a very funny performance by Yvonne Paretzky, rips into their repressive lessons with hilarious anti-oppression sexual-liberty stuff from today: “The Devil is a white construct to suppress women and people of color!” “Adam and Eve is a gender-biased fairy tale!” Don’t buy into “hegemonic masculinity”!


A Cozy Little Fire-Lit Evening
Written and directed by Timothy R. King

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From left: Julie Herber (Samantha),  Mitch Irzinski (David),
Brittany Morgan (Rachel)

A very noir tale with knife-like twists. Samantha (called Sam) drops in on David to exact revenge. He’s a university professor who dumped her when he took up with a student, the type he regularly fucks. What drives Sam round the bend, though—and what makes Julie Herber go all Fatal Attraction—is that David dumped her by email! Rachel, the younger woman, shows up. Sam is packing a knife in her bag. There will be blood. The big surprise is who dies how.


Social Guidance for Women
Written by Star Johnson and directed by Ayan

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From left: Ayan (Mary), Yvonne Paretzky (Linda), Jennifer McClean (Susan), Fred Rogers (Announcer).  Not pictured: Janel Dillard (who played the part of Mary Friday).

Coincidentally another playlet in which a sexist male authority figure’s repressive views get skewered. As the Announcer stands at a podium reading prescriptive pronouncements about women’s proper role in sex and elsewhere (condemning, for instance, masturbation as infidelity), a feisty sisterhood of three very liberated women  have a giggle about what they really want and get when they get it on.


Running Time: One hour 20 minutes, including one intermission.

The four one-acts on the bill for next weekend are:

Pregnancy Files
Written and directed by Natalia Gleason

Written and directed by Dara Gold

Mother Knows Best
Written by Jen Williams and directed by Rebecca Wahls

Remedial Sex Ed
Written by Derek Hills and directed by Sarah Scafidi

How To…Sex Education: Weekend One played September 16 and 17, 2016, at Rabble Crew performing at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets for How To…Sex Education: Weekend Two—September 23 and 34, 2016—are available online.