Sometimes, all you need to hear about a show is the title and the presenting company to know all about it. If you are already familiar with Tribe of Fools’ brand of physical devised theater, then you can almost imagine what Clown Sex Ed would be from start to finish… almost. If you’ve seen the likes of Antihero, Zombies with Guns, Fishtown and other ToF productions, you know that tossing, twisting and climbing on each other mixed with a relevant and entertaining story is their trademark. But anything you can imagine that Clown Sex Ed would be would likely fall short of what the creative team of Tara Demmy, Lexa Grace and Zachary Chiero is currently presenting on the Second Stage at the Adrienne.
Demmy and Chiero portray the titular clowns: red-nosed gibberish-mumbling students in colorful overalls. Throughout the 68-minute show, they are taught the details of intimate relations from parents, gym teachers, nuns and more. The scenes are presented as individual sketches, but they are linked by the clowns’ journeys through understanding themselves and each other. Every lesson has elements of comedy and acrobatics, and each one comes from a place of good, though misaligned, intentions.
We don’t see the clowns being taught, of course, since there are only two actors. Demmy and Chiero embody each of the aforementioned characters with care and confidence, as if they not only created them, but they know them inside and out. The result is a sense of perfection, in the literal sense of the word. No joke is left unbroached, no stone unturned, no characteristic ignored; and, as a result, no audience member unsatisfied.
The audience was asked to participate in the hijinks as well, assisting with the STDodgeball deonstration, helping Demmy’s clown with a personal issue and creating connections with Chiero. Yes, if you go, you may be called upon to hoist a giant representation of non-prophylactic contraceptives while people pelt you with balls. You have been warned. Lexa Grace’s direction and design are light, letting the characters be the focus. The only steady stage prop is a blackboard, which is utilized in a variety of ways, from a window to, well, a blackboard.
But what will soothe your soul in the end is not the comical variety of the sexual education classes, but the relationship between the two clowns. While they do attempt to explore some of what they have recently learned, they also treat each other with understanding, trust, empathy and the purest love, far more intimate than what options one has for genital manipulation. The feelings they have for each other are real, and that’s something that wasn’t, and couldn’t be, taught. You will learn something from Demmy’s and Chiero’s clowns and teachers, but it might not be what you thought it would be.
Clown Sex Ed runs through February 17. Tickets and more information are available here: www.tribeoffools.org