Magic Time! ‘How To… Sex Education’ at Rabble Crew Productions

Rabble Crew Productions has a proclivity for mounting edgy, sex-themed theater in fringey places around town. Last December they did Madeline Farrington’s Glory Us at The Fridge in Eastern Market, set in the world of Tinder and anonymous sex. My DC Metro Arts colleague Robert Michael Oliver caught it and called it a “sexual medley for the electronically horny (and lonely) modern world.” In 2014’s Capital Fringe they did Kelly Canavan’s Writing Miss Clark’s Résumé (directed her sister Emily Caravan), an unnerving dark comedy that included sexual contact between a teacher and her students.


Along these licentious lines, Rabble Crew has produced two weekends of pop-up playlets collectively titled How To…Sex Education at the DC Arts Center black box in Adams Morgan. Each weekend features a different bill of four 15-minute one-acts staged by DC-based writers, directors, and actors. I attended the first one and (no double entendre intended) found more than enough pleasures to want to come again.

Hardcore Normcore
Written and directed by Madeline Farrington

Hardcore Normcore.JPG
From left: Madeline Farrington (Clara) and Tim Trueheart (Ike).

Clara and Ike are biking to an ABC store from a party where Clara got so wasted she should  not be operating machinery of any kind. Their quite funny dialog, a lot of it sending up  liberal do-gooderism, includes jokes such as one about her mishearingracing for racist. It’s made all the more amusing by Farrington’s loopy out-of-it-ness. At issue is whether they are a match. “I don’t want to live in your normcore world!” she tells him. Then Clara insists he feel her breast. He obliges. Distracted, they crash, their bikes are totaled, and she lands banged up and delirious in a hospital bed with Ike loyally at her side.


American Piety
Written by Matt Spangler and directed by Emily Canavan

American Piety alt.jpg
From left: Timothy R. King (Goodman Mather). Pooja Chawla (Abigail), Noah Sommer (Malachi), Yvonne Paretzky (Goody Tituba), and Cristen Stephansky (Betty).

The satiric setup is very clever:  A sex-education class in the Plymouth Colony led by a pious scold of a preacher named Goodman Mather. The students dutifully learn their lessons, but their class is interrupted when Goody Tituba arrives and takes over. Goody, in a very funny performance by Yvonne Paretzky, rips into their repressive lessons with hilarious anti-oppression sexual-liberty stuff from today: “The Devil is a white construct to suppress women and people of color!” “Adam and Eve is a gender-biased fairy tale!” Don’t buy into “hegemonic masculinity”!


A Cozy Little Fire-Lit Evening
Written and directed by Timothy R. King

A Cozy Little Fire-Lit Evening.jpg
From left: Julie Herber (Samantha), Mitch Irzinski (David), and Brittany Morgan (Rachel).

A very noir tale with knife-like twists. Samantha (called Sam) drops in on David to exact revenge. He’s a university professor who dumped her when he took up with a student, the type he regularly fucks. What drives Sam round the bend, though—and what makes Julie Herber go all Fatal Attraction—is that David dumped her by email! Rachel, the younger woman, shows up. Sam is packing a knife in her bag. There will be blood. The big surprise is who dies how.


Social Guidance for Women
Written by Star Johnson and directed by Ayan

Social Guidance for Women.jpg
From left: Ayan (Mary), Yvonne Paretzky (Linda), Jennifer McClean (Susan), Fred Rogers (Announcer). Not pictured: Janel Dillard (who played the part of Mary Friday).

Coincidentally another playlet in which a sexist male authority figure’s repressive views get skewered. As the Announcer stands at a podium reading prescriptive pronouncements about women’s proper role in sex and elsewhere (condemning, for instance, masturbation as infidelity), a feisty sisterhood of three very liberated women  have a giggle about what they really want and get when they get it on.


Running Time: One hour 20 minutes, including one intermission.

The four one-acts on the bill for next weekend are:

Pregnancy Files
Written and directed by Natalia Gleason

Written and directed by Dara Gold

Mother Knows Best
Written by Jen Williams and directed by Rebecca Wahls

Remedial Sex Ed
Written by Derek Hills and directed by Sarah Scafidi


How To…Sex Education: Weekend One played September 16 and 17, 2016, at Rabble Crew performing at DC Arts Center – 2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets for How To…Sex Education: Weekend Two—September 23 and 24, 2016—are available online.

Previous article2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘The Elementary Spacetime Show’
Next articleReview: Kathleen Madigan: The Mermaid Lady Tour at the Lyric Opera House
John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg is executive editor of DC Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg. Member, American Theatre Critics Association.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here