First Time Last Time by Scott Sharplin at Shadow Theatre with my good friend @catharooni. We had a lovely evening in the Strathcona area, starting it at The Next Act for dinner and then taking in the show down the street. I used to be in the area so much more than I am lately, so there is always a wonderful feeling when I have a good reason to go there!
The play is about two people who meet each other in the familiar pick-up place of a nightclub and both being inexperienced sexually (but wanting not to be), they decide to hook up as long as the first time is the last time. The two, Ben (Mat Busby) and Airlea (Madeleine Suddaby), are very different in personality and type, but find themselves compatible and they find a unique way to modify the initial verbal contract so that the non-relationship extends into years. It's a very funny exploration of how far a couple might go to construct a non-relationship out of what is clearly a relationship. It seems to primarily be Airlea who is over-reluctant to define the nature of what they live-in. The situations and responses are humorous, complete with changing wigs and outfits and 'new first times' as time passes. I found the two actors to be quite engaging onstage and they seemed to have a real rapport. Busby is quite charming and Suddaby is a bubbly ball of energy that draws you in. And, although I found it hard to believe that a couple could stretch the contract so long, it was interesting. It made me think a lot of friends that I have who insist on bizarrely labeling their own relationships unconventional in reaction to some societal 'norm'. I have to admit, I do a bit of internal eye-rolling when labels are just exchanged for other labels when all it comes right down to is that the only person who cares about how you define the relationship is the one you are in it with. I wish I understood more about why the two of them push against commitment, particularly Airlea, because I think Ben does want the relationship.
Overall though, the play makes for a fun night out at the theatre. It gets a little serious towards the end but in a heart-touching way, and there is some wonderful theatre magic when the audience gets to participate. The framework of the piece contains some direct audience address, which bothered me until the audience pull-in made me forgive it. It takes a while, but it does earn it in that magical moment towards the end. I recommend this show, for there is a lot to think about, and it's a lot of fun. It might make you understand why someone didn't commit to you, or why you are with the one you are with. And while I don't recommend this kind of contract, there is something to be said for avoiding a routine in a relationship... a few 'firsts' when things get stagnant are never a bad idea!
First Time Last Time runs at the Varscona Theatre until March 29th.
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