So, what’s this show about? The first time you tried sushi? The first time you ordered something online? The first time you…

OK, you guessed it. “My First Time” at the Old Port Playhouse is about that very special first-time sexual experience most folks have had or will have (not that sushi and shopping aren’t important).

About a dozen years ago, a website was set up that allowed people to send in stories of their first-time experiences. Playwright Ken Davenport fashioned “My First Time” as a work that combines selections from those submissions with those taken from questionnaires audience members are asked to anonymously fill out before each performance.

Four actors offer dramatic readings from these real stories that run the gamut (without anything too kinky) of preferences, situations and emotions. The play softly treads the line between refreshing openness and providing, as they say, too much information. But it generally makes for a fun time.

For the current production at the intimate Old Port Playhouse, veteran director Janet Ross has assembled a talented cast who proved on Thursday night that they can handle the play’s many comic moments as well as its occasional serious turns. Always on stage during the 75-minute play, Bill Cook, Joe McLeod, Ashley A. Christy and Karen Stathoplos each established characters through variations of attitude and tone that matched up with the particular first-time story they were relating.

The rubber-faced Cook was alternately goofy, salacious, predatory and vulnerable as the piece required and was, by mid-show, getting laughs as soon as the spotlight hit him.

Christy went from confused teen to street-wise mama, delivering lots of energy out of her smallish frame, while McLeod worked variations on the likeable lump to good effect. Stathoplos was frequently the wound-up woman, not sure when she was having fun and when she was not.

Segments built around questions of who, what, when, where and how are introduced above the stage on a video screen that also displays various first-time statistics based on research and the results of the particular audience survey that night.

A gasp came from the crowd when it was revealed a surprisingly high percentage of women in the audience felt pressured before their first time. Issues of date rape and exploitation are touched upon in a show that wants to stay “real” in exploring what is not always a comfortable topic.

But the laughs are what most will remember from this show that brings us back to what is usually considered, for better or worse, a major event.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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