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The Campsite Rule, a pleasant trifle of a comedy by Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri, takes the somewhat less-than-contentious position that sex between consenting adults is fun, and that intelligent banter about it can be, too. In a brisk and lively production at the Anacostia Playhouse, courtesy of the youngish Washington Rogues theater company and director Megan Behm, Rachel Manteuffel’s 20-something Susan and Matthew Sparacino’s 18-year-old Lincoln meet cute at her college reunion, proceed directly to his freshman dorm, and arrange for the loss of both his virginity and a certain amount of their individual dignity.
This is sex as awkward grappling, as goofy bodily collision, as silly, sweaty absurdity—right up until it turns urgent and steamy and breathless. Petri has a knack for crisp comic turns of phrase, Manteuffel and Sparacino an admirable facility for delivering them, and supporting actress Hazel Lozano a winsome presence as Susan’s best drinking buddy Tina, whose romantic woes offer a foil to the main plot.
Which, it turns out, isn’t a particularly rich one, but oh well. What begins as a casual encounter gets more complicated as the green Lincoln begins to develop actual feelings for Susan, who wants to keep things less coitally committal while still observing the play’s titular caution, framed by sex columnist Dan Savage as a guideline for the older half of a couple with a sizable age gap: “Always leave ’em better than you found ’em.” We don’t learn enough about Susan and Lincoln in The Campsite Rule’s roughly 90 minutes for much in the way of emotional stakes to develop. But then, form and style count for something in romantic comedies, too, and Petri and her collaborators have marshaled plenty of both.