How To… Sex Education (Weekend Two)
by John Stoltenberg
Having enjoyed the first weekend of Rabble Crew Productions’ How To… Sex Education, I went back for seconds—another set of four short plays on the ever popular theme of sex…and the never popular topic of sex education. The cheeky conceit that connected the grab bag of two shows is that sex education can be fun and funny. Or sexy and silly. Or loopy and libidinous. Or something along those lines.
The first three plays on the bill made that case well. But it was the fourth that went all the way—with a remarkably crafted poetic-comedic playlet that merits further exposure.
Written and directed by Dara Gold
From left: High school students Layla and Geo (Dara Gold and Nick Elefante), new teacher Ms. Bonnie Jones (Karen Elle), students Lisa and Ava (Chase Hiday and Elizabeth Colandene), experienced teacher Ms. Anne Gibs (Jackie Madejski), school secretary (Bre McKenley), principal Higgins (Kenny Washington). Not pictured: Students Eli and Loquatia (Corry Bedwell and Ty Black).
First up was a large-cast story set in a high school where a newbie teacher named Ms. Bonnie Jones is assigned the sex-ed class—a bunch of randy, unruly, uncouth teens who crack up when one notes that her initials are BJ. They’re a teacher’s worst nightmare. Thankfully Ms. Jones gets help from a more experienced teacher, Ms. Anne Gibs, who is full of tricks for turning the kids into eager learners. Her stunts involve standard-issue bananas and condoms but also a song-and-dance “C-O-N-S-E-N-T” number (to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”), a pin-the-arrow-on-the-G-spot game (pictured), and odd novelties such Jello-o shots that she urges the students to loll their tongues around in. The whole affair becomes a manic competition, which the dour principal walks in on—though not before some actual education goes on as regards STDs and the advisability of sex that’s good and safe. In substance the sketch could easily serve as acceptable pedagogy in a real high school but for the fact it’s not only foolish-funny but also semi-smutty.
Mother Knows Best
Written by Jen Williams and directed by Rebecca Wahls
From left: Tess Higgins (Cassie/daughter), Annette Wasno (mother)
A young career woman with a skewed work-life balance is visited by her divorced mother, who, nosing around in her daughter’s closet, discovers a pink box. Turns out it’s where her daughter keeps her sexual aids. But the running joke is that the mother is far more adventurous and sexually experimental than her uptight daughter, and at one point praises the virtues of a particularly effective sex toy (which you can make out in the photo). “Remember,” the mother counsels, “the faster you learn to get yourself off, the happier you’ll be.”
Remedial Sex Ed
Written by Derek Hills and directed by Sarah Scafidi
From left: Stephanie Svec (Ms. Marcos), Torin Lusebrink (Brandon), Kelsey Murphy (Charlotte)
A young man wasted on Jägermeister visits his high school teacher, of whom he is way too fond. He is moving and must change high schools so he won’t see her anymore and has come to declare his crush. She, however, is preparing to go on a date (presumably with a grownup) and tries her best to blow him off. He then goes to a prop pail and blows chunks. In time a young woman student enters and complicates the situation. The writing is very funny and makes a cliche setup seem brisk and fresh.The playing of the interplay between teacher and young man was especially clever.
Written and directed by Natalia Gleason
From left: Kristina Brooks, Kimberlee Wolfson, Karen Elle, Katie Jeffries
This one really caught my eye and ear. It’s four women giving voice to the experience of conception, pregnancy, and birth—an apt conclusion for this series of takes on sex-ed. This terrific short play was distinguished by some really accomplished writing by Natalia Gleason, who told me she had written it during her own pregnancy. She also directs a delightful quartet of young women who begin by emulating various intensities of coitus then inflate balloons, which they pop under their tops (as in the photo). It’s a simply irresistible image, and it sets up what becomes a choral interweaving of four enthralling monologues about being pregnant—the whole gamut, from farting to bonding. Here’s a post-partum passage that gives an idea of the wry writing:
I had this thought during my midday shower today, that I respect and trust my body more than ever before.
It is not the most comfortable place of late, it will no longer get me on page six or win me an olympic medal, but for heavens sake, it assembled a fully functioning human being out of a microdrop of sperm.
I also think that pregnancy is a wonderful and rare chance for women to reconnect with the natural world. You have to trust your body above all; more than your doctor, your midwife, your mothering friends, your baby-grow vitamins and your calcium supplements. Books are placebo, the internet is overkill, no app on your smartphone will get you far.
It has to be your natural physical ability and your god-given animal instinct.
You have to listen to your god-given animal instinct.
You have to let your god-given animal instinct take over
I have never thought it is possible to feel so out of control and powerful at the same time.
Cue Lion King.
At which point they sing halfheartedly “The Circle of Life”! Hilarious and honest all at once, Natalia Gleason’s Pregnancy Files needs to be filed under Put Onstage Again, Please.
Running Time: One hour 20 minutes, including one intermission.
How To…Sex Education: Weekend Two played September 23 and 24, 2016, at Rabble Crew performing at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC.