So how was your first time?
If your first impulse on reading that question was "none of your business" or even "I don't care to remember," then you might not want to spend your pre- or post-coital cash on "My First Time," a show at the Greenhouse Theatre Center that opened Saturday night and could aptly be described as a "Vagina Monologues" about the last gasps of virginity. But this is an over-sharing culture, and given that all but a very few eventually experience the titular event, there is a website, myfirsttime.com, which was turned into a show, which now has arrived in Chicago and that allows you to compare notes on debut acts of copulation. If you're typical, it was almost certainly brief, disappointingly so. Well, for at least one party.
It — the copulation if not the comparison — is, undeniably, a favored activity of Homo sapiens. Among the many helpful statistics projected onto a little screen as part of this show is the factoid that 120 million acts of human sexual intercourse occur each day. No wonder the beaches here seem overcrowded this month.
Most of those acts, of course, are the work of experienced performers, but "My First Time" is dedicated to newbies. Herein, a cast of four solid, attractive young actors (Adam Soule, Jennifer T. Grubb, Michael Allen Harris and Leslie Ruettiger) interweave descriptions, lamentations, nostalgic yarns and confessionals drawn both from that wiki-like website and from the audience itself. (Fear not, surveys are anonymous and I as sure as heck did not fill one out.)
As the show aptly reflects, first times are actually quite diverse. Locales in the piece vary from the bucolic (golden meadows) to the exciting (jetliners at 30,000 feet) to the prosaic (the bathroom at Burger King). For some people, we discern, the well of feeling and the freshness of the moment trumps the lack of honed technique, resulting in a golden memory to last a lifetime. For others, the event is painful (in a variety of ways) and, in the darker stories that pock-mark the piece, traumatic. The best story of all, though, is thoroughly inspiring, involving a handsome young man in a wheelchair determined to take charge of his own sexuality.
Depending on your point of view, you might see "My First Time" as a revelation of an oft-ignored shared human moment or merely an intrusive excuse to sell tickets through titillation, although, in fairness, the tone is reasonably high-minded and the content is strictly verbal. Either way, you have to hand it to the all-new Broken Nose Theatre, which managed to snag the rights to the Chicago premiere of a late-night (naturally) show that had a very profitable commercial run in New York and seems likely to do quite nicely here, if only because ticket buyers on a date reckon that all this talk of sex and intimacy will improve the later part of the evening.
The odds of that happening — reads another helpful slide — are good, given that it is impossible to see this show (or maybe even to read this review) without dialing back to a seminal, or not, moment. "My First Time," penned by the Broadway producer Ken Davenport, does not range as deep as some might wish, neither poetically nor from the point of view of socio-economic exploration. And Benjamin Brownson's production starts out too tentative, although the mostly inexperienced actors picked up some rhythm as they go along. The climax of the hourlong show is upbeat, with the actors reminding everyone that your first time at anything is rarely your best.
Each night, the show features a different storyteller, offering a longer narrative on the subject in hand. On Saturday night, we heard a tale of virginity lost by a former staffer of the Bristol Renaissance Faire. "How many people can say they lost their virginity in the Renaissance?" was the tagline.
When: Through July 28
Where: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Running time: 1 hour
Tickets: $20-30 at 773-404-7336