For want of a bagel, the suburb was lost.
The often-shocking events of The First Day of School, the Amphibian Productions presentation at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, are set in motion by a seemingly innocuous blip in the schedule: A bagel breakfast set for the opening day of classes is canceled, leaving the kids' helicopter parents with nothing better to do than obsess about which teacher they want for their children.
Or, rather, almost nothing better to do. It turns out that these people should not be left with time on their hands.
Because as David (Patrick Bynane) and Susan (Molly Lloyd) debate how to spend their day free of work and offspring duties, their list of possibilities, which runs the gamut from seeing a movie to shopping for a dryer, also includes "have sex with other people."
This pastime is proposed and accepted with the same nonchalance as a trip to the supermarket. And just as easily, potential partners are selected from among the other parents hovering around the school.
What ensues is a highly sophisticated sex farce that skewers middle-class suburbanites (we would have once called these characters "yuppies") and their values.
It is sly and witty and shifts from realism to surrealism at will.
It has the kind of barb and bite that might be found in sources stretching from the plays of Moliere to the novels of John Updike, and creates the sort of alternate reality found in Edward Albee's humorous satires.
This is edgy, tricky stuff. But director Evan Mueller and the players do a superb job of finding the comedy and the viciousness in this script by Billy Aronson, who recently received an Emmy for his work on the Nickelodeon series Wonder Pets.
Bynane and Lloyd play the instigating couple without the slightest hint of irony, lending a surprising innocence to their outrageous behavior.
Marshall York gets in touch with his inner Jim Carrey to play the deeply conflicted Peter.
Usually, that would not be a good thing. But York makes his over-the-top physicality work for the character.
And he has one monologue early in the show that is amazing.
Keeping pace with York are Krista Scott, as the ubermom Kim, and Desiree Fultz, as the hard-driving lawyer (and, ultimately, riding-crop-wielding) Alice.
Sydney Baumgart, a young actress who is growing exponentially with each role, and Alex Bush also score major points in their brief appearance as hormonal teenagers Belinda and Jonah.
Be aware that this show is not going to be to everyone's taste. It looks base on the surface, but it is actually quite arty.
And even if you plug into the playwright's mindset, you might still feel he has not clearly enough stated his case (whatever it might be).
But it is also possible to just enjoy this as a well-acted, wacky sex romp with a twisted sense of humor.