Review -- My First Time at Trustus by Susan Levi Wallach

my first time According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, new media are dictating the form of old: serialized books are returning to accommodate commuters who read on iPads and cellphones; once-marginalized short films are no longer relegated to the film-fest circuit but are online hits—and shorter than ever; albums (or whatever you call them, because they certainly aren’t vinyl and scratchy) can have as few as four songs.

It works the other way, too. Those tweets, posts, and blogs that used to give only “friends” and “followers” and the odd lurker access to the intimate details once the stuff of diaries? For the canny producer, it’s all material.

The producer in question here is Ken Davenport. The material was a string of anonymous website posts that Davenport turned into the play “My First Time,” which runs through April 27 in Trustus Theatre’s black box. “My First Time,” mostly a series of sliced-and-diced monologues and one-liners, premiered off-Broadway six years ago, when had close to 50,000 responses; the site has since grown to nearly 54,000. Imagine: all those people writing in their language of choice about the first time they Did It. With details, either true or wishful.

“My First Time” is a “Love Letters” for the new, no-such-thing-as-TMI millennium. As directed by Jade Johnson, it is well suited to the spare space at Trustus: the kind of show that you can get onstage on a dime and that, with a competent cast, is hard to mess up. Trustus’s four actors are up to the challenge, rendering such lines as “I know you’re not supposed to have physical relations with your stepsister” and “I was mesmerized by her boobies” with ease and panache.

For the most part, these are not heartwarming stories. Nor are they particularly erotic, or even really story-like: only a few have anything like plot, setting, and literary finesse. There’s little to visualize beyond erogenous zones. Some are monologues, others border on rants, because there’s often the sense of exhibitionism, of “I need to get this off my chest” here (and, yes, writing this review while avoiding all possible puns has proven impossible, thank you for noticing).

The result is ultimately a bit banal, despite the good efforts of the actors: Shane Silman, Trustus regular G. Scott Wild, and Trustus newcomers Brandi Perez and Jennifer Sanchez. Among the cast, the two men seem to have the better time as well as the better lines. All suffer a bit from overly harsh lighting that not only could be more nuanced but also could define the performance area more precisely.

The play runs for about ninety minutes with no intermission. Still, the conceit begins to wear thin well before the last line, the way that hearing a group of strangers describe the dreams they had last night would. If you go, plan to get there early enough to take the pre-curtain audience survey. The responses are part of the show—tabulated and displayed, along with assorted quotes and factoids about virginity and its absence, on the screens that dominate the set. In addition, the actors read a selection of excerpts. It’s a nice, personal touch that gives you the chance to wonder who around you would really say that to her old boyfriend if she had the chance.

“My First Time” will be onstage at the Trustus Side Door Theatre on April 26 and 27. For showtimes and to reserve tickets, call the box office at (803) 254-9732.

-- Susan Levi Wallach