By Michael Block
In Daniel Reitz's shock-filled insider comedy Pucker Up and Blow, a young actor gets the opportunity of a lifetime by being cast in a Broadway show. The caveat? He will portray a retarded 16 year old who is sold as a sex slave to a man by his older brother who will use the money to fund a Neo-Nazi movement in a play written by the most inflammatory African-American playwright. But just when David thinks the show is the biggest of his worries, his girlfriend turned cast member begins an affair with their hip hop co-star all while David gets proverbially raped by the business. Pucker Up and Blow is unapologetically risqué. But where does shock value end and message begin? For those in the business, the overblown stereotypes are hilarious. The play within the play is so ridiculous your jaw will drop from laughter. But being as theatrical referential as it is, those not in the know may not grasp the message Reitz is trying to convey. If you start off offended, it's easy to dismay the entirety of Reitz's script. All that being said, this is a proactively daring script about sex, race, aged exploitation. Though the full frontal nudity in Pucker Up and Blow does diminish the message. In the end, this is an underdog story for David. But that underdog story loses credibility by extending beyond the opening night scene. David has received his redemption and validation. The play can end there. By extending it, we watch the sick cycle of fame on the psyche and the vicious person he has turned into. But perhaps that's the whole point.
Director Paul Schnee took the smart comedy and allowed Reitz's comedy to shine through. Schnee assisted the company in finding the conviction within the characters without making them cartoons. Though the staging was occasional flat, there was a good sense of variety in stage pictures. The hip-hop soundtrack of transition music sound designer Emma Wilk provided fit the mood of the play quite well.
When it comes to performances, Will Dagger as David went above and beyond the call of duty in a captivating performance. Dagger's raw emotional journey was one for the ages. As sex choreographer Micah, Shane Allen found the balance of ridiculous and authentic, teetering on the blurred lines if boundaries. The winner of the night was Chandra Thomas. Her small bit role as the deadpan stage manger brought some of the nights best laughs.
In the end, Pucker Up and Blow is an insider play that tackles sex and race within the industry. It’s not for the faint of heart.