On the Willamette campus, Theatre 33’s first show this summer begins June 17th and 18th.  It’s a brand new comedy by a young, successful Portland playwright, Brianna Barrett.  The play is 36 Perfectly Appropriate Mealtime Conversations. Apart from being a premiere – which all Theater33 plays are – one of the things that makes this play unique is the roles are gender neutral.

The play was purposefully written that way so any gender could be cast in any role. 

Working with the author, Theatre 33 thought it would be cool to switch the roles at each performance, says Tom Nabhan, the director. A male actor who plays Cameron at 2 pm on Saturday plays the female role, Terry, at 7 pm on Saturday. Actors then switch again back and forth on the two shows on Sunday.

“We are now taking that a step further, and switching the roles at intermission of every performance so every audience member can experience the full impact of the core tenet of the play,” Nabhan says.

The group is trying to discover if, and when, this was last done anywhere in a full play, and can’t find any documentation.  “So, this could be the first time a theatre has done this,” Nabhan says.

The play is directed by Stephanie Mulligan, one of the founders and long time member of Artists Repertory Theatre.  It runs Saturday, June 17 at 2 pm and 7 pm, and Sunday, June 18 at 2 pm and 7 pm in M. Lee Pelton Building at Willamette University. Suggested donation is $10.  The show is not appropriate for children under 12.

The play asks, how do we navigate gender roles in this modern age? and no one is more confused about this than Cameron, a hopeless wallflower struggling to turn online dates into real relationships, and Morgan, a conservative newlywed whose spouse just declared: “I want to have sex with other people. …Men-people.” Following the ups and downs of a few troubled relationships, this play explores everything from infidelity, STDs, making babies, and meeting parents, to propositioning strangers for that weird stuff your spouse won’t do.

In this humorous take on dating, relationships, and committing to that whole “marriage” thing, each performance asks the same questions – but it always sounds a little different.