Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: A Porn Star Love Story

Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? A guy and girl are in love, they face an obstacle that rips them apart, but in the end, through the magic of circumstance, they fall back in love and live happily ever after. The Performers follows that exact formula, but adds an extraordinary comical layer that sets it apart from the generic “romcom.” What is that layer? The characters in this play live in the world of pornography, or adult entertainment. The Performers, as they call themselves, have the same issues the average beating-heart human have, though theirs seems a bit heightened to a laughable peak. Through some witty, though occasionally forced a laugh dialogue, David West Read has written a play where over-the-top comedy roams free and serves as a fun night at the theater.
The ensemble-driven story centers on the night of the Adult Performer Awards where Mandrew, played simply by Cheyenne Jackson, is getting the honor of being interviewed by his old classmate Daniel Breaker’s Lee for the Post, which gets the running gag of being confused with the Times by Mandrew. As the interview seems to go off the handle, we begin to learn that vanilla Lee needs some love pointers from the sexpert Mandrew, who’s having some love issues himself with his performer wife, Peeps. Ari Graynor owns the role of Peeps and for the most part, commands the stage every time she steps foot on it. She gives an A+ performance, one hopefully the Tony voters will remember. It’s hard to say that this was a breakout performance for Graynor because she’s already graced us with her comic genius in other parts on stage and film, but this solidifies Graynor as a comic on a speedy rise to superstardom. The play chugs along and introduces us to Mandrew’s porn rival Chuck Wood, played like a waning legend by Henry Winkler, his new partner Sundown LeMay, dimly played by Jenni Barber and her unique costume, and Lee’s soon-to-be wife, Sara, played by “Clueless” herself, Alicia Silverstone. Silverstone has a very difficult task in playing the most uninteresting character in the cartoonish landscape of the ensemble. Her first few scenes you wonder if Silverstone is on something in order to spice up Sara, but it’s not until her drunk scene that Sara comes to life and Silverstone actually gets to perform. Director Evan Cabnet does a great job bringing more comedy into Read’s script and helping his cast find life inside their caricatures. The colorful pallet set designer Anna Louizos, costume designer Jessica Wegener Shay, and lighting designer Jeff Croiter bring to The Performers is vibrant and intentionally humorous. Louizos clever set, which features a fun little transforming hotel room, is a major plus that helps bring the world to life.
If you’re looking for an arousing night of laughs that the current average Hollywood romcom won’t bring, check out The Performers. Just don’t expect to be moved or come out with a new thought on laugh. The Performers is purely here for entertainment, which sometimes isn’t a bad thing.

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