ORLANDO — Ah, to be a young woman, not quite 19, full of energy, and ambition and drive.
Seated under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, Martha knows exactly what she wants out of life. High school is over, and she understands what it is that she needs to achieve before she vacates her teens. It’s something crucial to any teen-ager, and Martha feels like she’s way behind the curve.
Her mission, after all, is to lose her virginity.
Too bad it’s harder than she thinks. When Martha woos her boyfriend Max under the Atlantic City boardwalk, he gets antsy when he sees a beach attendant cleaning up litter, and goes over to tell the guy to buzz off. Max ends up with a bloody nose, and that effort to finally say farewell to her virginity tanks. What’s a girl to do?
Poor Martha. She’s pretty. She’s perky. She has a go-getter personality. How hard can it be to find a Jersey shore boy to go to first base with?
There are even more complications for Martha, though. The year is 1964, and it’s still decades before the dudes from the reality show “Jersey Shore” hit the screen with their pumped up bods and desire to prove that studs score quite frequently. Anna decides that maybe one of those not-so-bright local boys shouldn’t be the magical one to deliver her to the promised land, so she sets her sights much higher.
The great craze in the United States that year is those wildly popular imports from Liverpool, the Beatles, and Martha is positively in love with Paul McCartney. And since the Beatles are coming to the area to perform, Martha decides, who better to take her virginity than the man who sang “All My Loving” — perhaps with her in mind?
”I’m Saving It For Paul,” now being performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, is a comedy about women and their sexual desires — set in an era when morality groups were still fretting over whether Annette Funicello’s bikini was too small in all those beach movies, or whether teens would become sex crazed if television allowed Barbara Eden to show her navel in “I Dream of Jeannie.”
As this play points out, even back then, the kids were well beyond their parents’ protective hope for them. And if television and the movies often liked to portray boys in their late teens as the ones running wild with hormone-induced horniness, zooming in on the sweet girls who hoped to stay innocent and pure until their wedding night, “I’m Saving It For Paul” makes it clear the girls knew exactly what they were doing.
Martha, of course, has a problem. How does an 18-year-old girl from “Joisey” snag a Beatle?
Martha decides that the best way to break into Paul’s heart is to figure out what kind of women manage to get beyond the Beatles’ thick wall of security and get in to see those handsome heartthrobs. She soon figures that one out — hookers! Joining an escort service that sends lovely ladies in to meet performers who can’t get out of their hotel room for fear of being crushed by a mod of wildly adoring teens, Martha is soon gearing up to meet the man of her dreams. But is she setting herself up for the greatest night of her life — or disaster?
Part of the reason why “I’m Saving it For Paul” works is the spot-on performances by Robyn Scrivener as Martha and John Reid Adams as Paul McCartney. Scrivener portrays Martha as an 18-year-old who is maybe a bit too eager to get to where she desperately wants to be, and is smart and resourceful enough to devote an almost manic energy to getting there — maybe a bit too smart for her own good, since her efforts to lose her virginity to the ultimate romancer, not surprisingly, hit some major snags along the way.
Adams does a great job as McCartney — he gets the accent just right, and also the personality, and at first it seems like a clever imitation. But as the play goes on, he actually manages to portray a character and not just an imitation, as he confronts the girl who has been pretending to be older — and a professional to boot — and clearly turns out to be neither.
The play by writer/director Nicole Antonia Carson might spark some humorous memories for those who grew up in that era and might remember a thing or two about how the innocence of the early 1960s was, well, maybe not as innocent as it got portrayed in the media. And for those too young to remember the Beatles in their heyday, there’s always the sight of watching Martha take on a mission that not a single one of us hasn’t fret about while slogging our way through high school algebra and geometry.
The show continues tonight at 11:15 p.m., Saturday at 5:15 p.m. and Sunday at 9:45 p.m. at the outdoor Red Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre.
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