Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

Sex and God are preferred subjects at the live-theatre multiplex known as New World Stages: this is the point where the reputable critic is supposed to turn up his nose at an enterprise so unflaggingly devoted to pandering.

And yet these stages, where the Christian boy-group musical Altar Boyz coexists with the long-running romp Naked Boys Singing, emit a vibe missing from most theatres in midtown Manhattan. There’s a cocktail lounge near the entrance and a comedy-club feel to the offerings. What’s more, the natural hair colour of the theatres’ patrons tends not to be grey.

At My First Time, the multiplex’s newest fare and an evening devoted to real-life tales of losing one’s virginity, the audience contains gaggles of young women shrieking before curtain with a bachelorette-party glee. I felt myself in a Carrie Bradshaw and Co scenario, and the play, like Carrie’s TV show, bespeaks a New York in which sex has been scrubbed clean of dirt and danger.

The only shocking thing about My First Time’s confessions of lost virtue is how unshocking they are. Culled from a website of the same title, and furnishing further proof that theatre more and more has become a “platform” for brand extension, these sexual spills are recounted by four winning actors: Bill Dawes, Josh Heine, Kathy Searle and Cydnee Welburn.

Behind them a screen flashes thematically apt quotations (“I always thought of losing my virginity as a career move” – Madonna) and statistics from surveys theatregoers fill out before showtime (“Number of virgins in this audience: two”).

If My First Time is sampled more enjoyably on its website than in a reality-based play, there is something reassuring about spending 90 minutes in an audience collectively recalling how comically bad (or, for the lucky ones, smashingly good) one’s initial sexual experience was. Ken Davenport directed, and Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” is the inevitable theme song.

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