The Birds, The Bees—and Tony Braithwaite

by Ellen Wilson Dilks

Ambler’s Act II Playhouse is kicking off their 2013-2014 season with the premiere of Tony Braithwaite’s new one-man show: DIDN’T YOUR FATHER HAVE THIS TALK WITH YOU. Based on Braithwaite’s experiences teaching religion and sex-ed to high school freshman at his alma mater, St. Joe’s Prep, the show is a hilarious dissertation on kids’ misconceptions regarding this most sensitive of topics. Though highly relatable for those of us who went through Catholic school, everyone will find themselves laughing at Braithwaite’s stories.

Braithwaite is arguably one of the most engaging performers in Philly; he has worked as a stand-up comedian and he knows how to hold an audience’s interest. He’s also great at thinking on his feet and can make comedy out of whatever feedback he gets from the crowd. And the audience is included in on the fun. One particularly entertaining segment is his explanation of Jesuit priests, involving audience members in the “lesson”.

I have to say, Braithwaite’s students—and probably all of the boys at the private Catholic prep schools—got way more actual information than my classmates and I did at Prendergast. Our sex-ed course consisted of a nun telling us that if “God was so willing, a husband and wife would conceive a child.”  Thank you, Sister, that clears it all up for me. Braithwaite showed three of the books that were used during his tenure, and gleefully pointed out their unintentional language gaffes. It was great to hear how he gave the kids permission to laugh at things that were funny.

Tony Braithwaite stars in DIDN’T YOUR FATHER HAVE THIS TALK WITH YOU? at Act II Playhouse. (Photo credit: Bill D’Agostino)

Directed by Mary Carpenter, the 80 minute piece moves along briskly, yet allows the audience brief respites to recover their breath after laughing so hard. Larry Fowler’s wonderfully adroit sound design becomes a second character in the piece, providing terrific editorial “buttons” to sections of the show, as well as the sounds of the students.   Braithwaite’s 80 year old father is also a part of the piece, giving recorded commentary—and chiding his son to keep it real. Avista Custom Theatrical Services has once again created terrific props for Braithwaite to work with, and two St. Joe alums, Joe Binck and Ryan George, have created a spot-on classroom set (with a step-down comic’s area in the center).  Andy Shaw has lit it all perfectly.

As funny as Braithwaite’s stories are, he also touches on some very poignant—and clearly very personal—moments as well. There is a brilliantly acted section towards the end where he portrays four young men coming to him with very difficult problems.

As we were leaving, my companion said, “I wonder what he said to those boys when they confided in him?”

I responded, “I think the important thing was that he listened—and didn’t judge.”

I recommend you take the trip to Ambler to catch this warm and funny show; it is selling out fast—they’ve already added performances. Running Wednesdays through Sundays, some dates have two shows to choose from.

Written by and starring Tony Braithwaite
Directed by Mary Carpenter
Sept 10 – Oct 11, 2013 (extended!)
Act II Playhouse
56 E. Butler Pike
Ambler, PA

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