(l to r) Zehra Berkman, Bill English, Marcia Pizzo, Jackson Davis and Stacy Ross

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL by Billy Aronson, directed by Chris Smith. The SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter Street (one block off Union Square, b/n Powell & Mason), San Francisco. 415-677-9596, or Through November 7, 2009.


SF Playhouse has a reputation for producing socially uncomfortable plays and they do not disappoint in their latest offering. If you go to see the World Premiere of First Day of School, and you should go, be prepared for raunchy, ribald, riotous rite of passage into adulterous sexual behavior that is not for the mythical Lady in Dubuque. It is what one would expect from author Billy Aronson who cut his teeth on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” and is credited for the original concept of Rent. With a star studded cast, directed by former Magic artistic director Chris Smith, cavorting on another splendid Bill English set, it is a must see show even if you are not into kinky sexual behavior. Just think of it as fantasy.

Aronson asks the question: What do married couples with school age children do when they send the kids off to school? In this play, three married couples become entangled in the desires of Susan (Zehra Berkman) and David (Bill English) who are anxious and agreeable to have sex outside the bonds of matrimony. To establish the set up, Aronson writes three identical scenarios where each unsuspecting participant is approached in a matter-a-fact manner. Susan takes the first step by asking confused, shy Peter (Jackson Davis) “Would you like to have sex with me?” His response is an extended hysterical monolog expressing hidden desires, marital fear, and Victorian conscience.

David approaches beautiful, blond and stunning Kim (Marica Pizzo) and after her expressive monolog response, turns him down with a suggestion that another time might be appropriate. Not to be dissuaded, David then asks Alice (Stacy Ross) whose spastic response could be a page from a psychiatrist’s notebook. End of scene one and the wall that has stretched across the front of the stage parts revealing the comfortable living room of Susan and David.

This is a farce so there are the obligatory four exits: front door, kitchen door, exit up a set of stairs to the bedrooms and downstairs steps to the family room. You guessed it. Peter shows up and Susan takes him up stairs. David returns home and Kim shows up. Before David can consummate an assignation with Kim, Alice enters and the fun begins, and what fun. Chris Smith’s direction is superb and the acting by the female cast members would win Tony Awards. Jackson Davis’s histrionic performance, initially hilarious, wears thin as the play progresses. Bill English’s unenviable role as the unflappable husband is handled with aplomb. End of Scene two.

In Scene three it is 4 years later and communal gatherings are continuing. Alas, within multiple relationships, problems arise but Aronson’s clever dialog, Smith’s adroit direction and the cast’s split second timing carry the day and alls well that ends well, or so it seems. You will have to go see the show to see the unexpected twist when Aronson throws two teenagers (Torie Laher and Miles Landberg) into the melee. Running time 90 minutes without intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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