March 15, 2018 at 3:07 pm EST | by Patrick Folliard
‘Adult Entertainment’ offers up-close-and-personal laughs
Adult Entertainment, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellie Nicoll as Heidi the Ho in ‘Adult Entertainment.’ (Photo by Ryan Smith)

‘Adult Entertainment’
Through March 31
The Klunch
Caos on F
923 F St., N.W.

Was that real or a prosthetic? Not your ordinary après theater chitchat, but a flash of male porn star flesh in the Klunch’s production of “Adult Entertainment” stirs up this sort of question and more.

Written by comic legend Elaine May, the often-funny play premiered on Broadway in 2002 to mixed reviews. But hey, though it may not be May’s most engaging work, the amusing two-act piece, here performed by a terrific and delightfully brazen cast, definitely has its moments.

Set in 1990s New York City, the action centers on Frosty Moons (Paige O’Malley), a ditzy, sometime legit actress who wants to return to porn, but not just any porn. She, along with other disgruntled and seemingly dim pay-for-play stars, Heid the Ho (Ellie Nicoll), Vixen (Zoe Walpole) and Jimbo (Steve Lebens), are striving to do a real film with meaningful dialogue. Unfortunately, their aspirations surpass the abilities of their producer/director Guy (Tony Greenberg), a goodhearted vulgarian with an eye on money shots and the bottom line.

Heidi, hostess of a naughty late night public access TV show, finds the solution by recruiting Gerry (Erik Harrison), a young Yale-educated cameraman to write their movie. Heidi’s show is based on Robin Byrd’s real-life porn call-in porn phenomenon. But unlike the raucous gravelly voiced Byrd, Nicoll’s likable Heidi is more breathy and sensitive yet sexy à la Marilyn Monroe.

With earnest rigor, Gerry encourages his eager cast to cut back on drugs and explore their roles, encouraging them to delve into the works Flaubert, Dylan Thomas and Arthur Miller. The famously well-endowed and gay Jimbo becomes heavily bogged in the existential angst of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” and increasingly takes financial care of his castmates, particularly young Vixen, a goth girl whose “Born Yesterday” laugh belies her street smarts. And when serious Gerry asks game Frosty to be ”at once shy and confident,” the results are hilarious.

Joe Banno, a former D.C. resident who now works out of L.A., makes bold directorial choices. But May’s sometimes lumbering script presents a problem. At more than two hours, it could definitely benefit from some cutting. A shorter version would certainly be lighter and a bit more fun.

Performed at Caos on F, the smallish gallery space that works as a versatile black box with about 35 seats (configured in the round for this production), the play unfolds just steps away from the audience with bare behinds and other body parts gyrating within close reach. David C. Ghatan’s tight set includes a stripper pole and cityscape seen through a window.

The Klunch’s New York-based, out artistic director Ian Allen boasts a yen for all things Elaine May. The company’s first production in 2015, was May’s 2011 “George Is Dead,” a deliciously funny one act about a widow too spoiled to grieve. A self-described fan-boy, Allen says he’s been obsessed with May’s work since his high school drama teacher handed him a copy of her suicide-themed comedy “Not Enough Rope.”

His admiration mostly works here. The problems have more to do with the source material than Allen and his cast’s interpretive abilities.

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