It’s madcap — it’s delicious — it’s the urge to copulate loosely wrapped around a meaty, vulnerable core. Now through July 6, 1515 Broadway presents My Boyfriend the Stripper, another titillatingly titled work by playwright Ronnie Larson, penner of Making Porn, The XXX-Mas Show and All-Male Peep Show, to name a mighty few. But don’t be fooled by its quick-thrill moniker; My Boyfriend is a ray-of-hope fairy tale packed inside the soul-stirring sexual complexities and disturbing absurdities of adulthood, although the title’s shameless promise does pay off immediately.
In the beginning, there’s a birthday bash for Adam, filled with colored balloons, a cop, a huge, dancing and dangling “oh, my gosh” and much ass-slapping. And then Adam meets David. They’re an unlikely couple: Adam, older, chunky and lumpy, each molecule of insecurity living on the surface of his skin, easily embarrassed by life’s bawdy edges and showing it through awkward and lovable emissions — and ex-porn star David, oozing sex and supporting his Mapplethorpian photography habit with exotic entertaining, which he prefers to think of as performance art. But the impetuous youngster takes to Adam and, although suspicious — “Did my friends put you up to this?” — he goes along for the wild ranger ride because, hey, who wouldn’t? Even just to satisfy curiosities, over and over again.
The play flowers out, touching on the lives and loves of Adam and his closest friends — and we watch as Adam and David’s miraculous romance strikes some of the others like a bitter thorn. Now the intimacy fissure between Peter (Joe Plambeck) and gay culture professor Larry (David Anthony) is a Grand Canyon of dissatisfaction. And nurturing Gavin (Chad Hetzel), who’s feeling the call of coupling, turns to druggie, damaged Bud, who’s secretly already gettin’ some from a married man.
As the men’s desires and betrayals unfold and knot up, Larson creates an interesting scene-and-sentence interaction by cutting between professor Larry analyzing and criticizing gay theater as gay lives transpire on the stage. It’s a satiric Rocky Horror touch that combines serious, self-reflective truths with traditional, goofball gay shtick — blended with little, intimate, heart-to-heart dramas each time David has a bare-it-all photo shoot with one of the boys.
Yet the play never forgets to give you a cheap, gratifying laugh to keep you level, like when Adam finds red roses on his work desk from a secret admirer. He calls David, who we see wearing black leather pants and a chain-mail shirt, and pretty soon romantic-and-sweet morphs into sexually deviant, high-contrast hilarity and wrinkled work papers.
The cast has an all-over-the-place, champagne-bubble enthusiasm that’s hard for the sober and straight to keep up with, but the energy is addictive and attitude-soothing. They zip from scene to scene like kids at a playground so hungry for life they want to make sure they play on everything before they get to the jungle gym.
When Adam says to David, “You don’t really seem like the porn star type,” I beg to differ. As David, gay adult-video scenester Rhett O’Hara sports Jack Russell Terrier muscles surrounding a monster cock, and is just as comfortable in or out of his clothes. He delivers all his dialogue with a smile and a deadpan, let’s-get-these-lines-over-with drive, the signature of a porn professional. He’s a man made to entertain, at least in one way, and he does the trick, whipping old dog Adam into a new love frenzy. As Adam, Joe Bailey is the heart and sensitive substance of the play, effectively sucking in our empathies with his self-effacing, nervous charm as he pokes at our worst fears, no matter what our sexual preference. Nobody wants to be played for a fool, or to have a living dream change its mind, leaving you to wake up in your soggy underwear all alone. But Larson leaves you with no bitter aftertaste, ultimately holding onto the “gay” in gay theater.
With its wacky, beach-blanket-uh-oh! finale, My Boyfriend the Stripper is spanking good medicine for tortured hearts and mildewed libidos.
My Boyfriend the Stripper by Ronnie Larson is at 1515 Broadway (in Detroit) through July 6 — Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 7 & 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m. (additional Sunday, June 29 show, 3 p.m.). Call 866-468-3399 or visit ticketweb.com. Tickets also available at Chosen Books in Royal Oak or Just 4 Us in Ferndale.Anita Schmaltz writes about theater for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org