THEATRE RESPONSE: Making Porn: Porn Stars Have Feelings Too by Matthew Davis Glass

img_0263

Originally Published in The South Florida Blade January 2010

Congratulations to Empire Stage on their inaugural production of Ronnie Larsen’s MAKING PORN!

Audiences are loving the play, this new addition to the South Florida Theatre Scene has risen to the occasion and it is clear that they have received a warm hand on their opening, as they have had the luxury of extending their  first run until Valentine’s Day, a very good sign these days, given the recent affect the recessionary climate has had on the artistic community nationwide.

Recently Empire Stage took over the site of the 48 seat Sol Theatre, formerly lead by award winning director, Robert J. Hooker. In their mission statement they are dedicating their new venture to producing new and existing works for the diverse audiences of Fort Lauderdale, including the LGBT and Senior populations by offering theater artists a supportive environment where they can collaborate, take risks and develop as writers, directors, actors, designers and as producers. They have tested Fort Lauderdale’s artistic and libidinous waters and have risen to the occasion with a very bold, yet poorly and thinly written limp script, chock full of male nudity and bawdy humor. Their wasn’t a dry seat… uhm…eye in the house and the play gave a new meaning to the mostly gay audience’s “standing” ovation.

Ronnie Larsen’s 1995 arguable hit has toured the world, including a month long sold out run on Miami Beach’s Colony Theatre in the nineties. Set in San Francisco in the early 1980s, MAKING PORN, focuses on the lives of six people involved in the gay pornography industry. Jack Hawk (David R. Gordon), a straight, out-of-work actor is hired by gay porn producer, Arthur Mack (Michael Lopez), to star in his newest porn movie entitled, Cops. Included in the films cast are Ray Tanner (Angel Perez), a jaded porn star of 70’s films and a bright, young new-cummer named Ricky (Ryan McFadden). Complications arise when Jacks wife, Linda (Julia Clearwood), finds out about her husbands new career and Arthur’s lover, Jamie, falls in love with a young porn star.

Director, ensemble member and MAKING PORN veteran Michael Lopez moves Larsen’s script along smoothly as a fun upbeat comedy, until the script shallowly shifts and begins to explore the problems in the two “married” couple’s relationship. Larsen goes even further down the path of sophomoric writing and in the last 15 minutes of the play spoon feeds the audience a message about the AIDS crisis, and the dim future of the porn industry if they are forced to use condoms.   The morosity and  moral statements forced into the play’s second act take the wind out of the play’s comic first. It makes you wonder how many time Ronnie Larsen had read Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America, which was the new hit when this play was first  being written and why he tried to mimic it.

Despite these hurdles, Lopez is successful in making great use of a very simple set employing great economy in taking us to many different locales without the pacing being marred with clumsy set changes.  No costume or prop designer was listed in the credits and despite the abundance of nudity in the play the modern clothing and prop choices  lead us to believe that the play is set in the present thus taking us out of the world of the  play when we hear characters referring to pay phones, not cell phones and until the second act, AIDS and condoms are never mentioned. Nudity on stage requires great  lighting skill and artistry, but Jeff Holmes’s lighting is not very flattering to anyone in their birthday suit.

The cast is uneven in it’s acting abilities but despite this, the evening’s highlights are Jack’s earnest attempts at acting, his warm up is hysterical. The staging of a sex scene on the hood of the cop car, tops the first  act off with a most welcomed bit of physical humor and Linda’s wonderfully underplayed arrival on the  porn set, is one of the evening’s comic high points.

Contrary to any flaws this critic finds in the production, Empire Stage is definitely a company to watch and a welcome addition to a neighborhood that needs and can support an Off Broadway style theatre that seems to have it thumb on the pulse on it’s demographic audience. Turn off your webcams, stop downloading it for free and typing with one hand to see MAKING PORN and welcome your new neighbors, live in the flesh.

MAKING PORN by Ronnie Larsen;  direction  by Michael Lopez;;  lighting and sound by Jeff Holmes; At the  Empire Stage Theater, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale 33304. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through February 14. 954-678-1496 or www.empirestage.com. Run Time: Two hours.

scan 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s