The naked truth

Jul 09

What is it about actors that allows them to be naked onstage?

Does that courage come from the same source that lets them be actors in the first place, a mix of confidence, capability and desperate insecurity?

Whatever it is, I admire it. I can barely do the swimsuit thing on a public beach.

I was thinking a lot about the whole nudity thing while sitting in the audience at San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theatre watching 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night, a play by James Edwin Parker that opened Sunday.

The plot, as you might gather from the title, is about two 36-year-old men (not exactly boys, but we’ll concede the point) in the midst of what the kids call a hook-up.

The set is a dimly lit gray New York apartment with a Murphy bed, and face down in that bed is Paul Lekakis (above right, a performer who once had a dance club hit called “Boom Boom Boom Let’s Go Back to My Room,’’ which could be this show’s theme song).

He’s naked, of course, but discretely covered with sheets. Then Scott Douglas Cunningham comes out of the bathroom attired in a robe. After squirting a few jolts of Binaca into his mouth, he disrobes and snuggles into bed next to the sleeping figure.

If Cunningham has any reservations about showing off his body, you certainly wouldn’t know it from this show. Lekakis seems a little more hesitant about going “full monty,’’ but he does it.

It’s a relief, as the 75-minute play goes on, that the “boys” do eventually put some clothes on. It’s difficult to concentrate on dialogue when you keep thinking, “Well, would you look at that,” or, “Hmm. I guess that’s what they mean by manscaping.”

The play, given solid direction by David Drake, does actually turn out to be about more than flesh and appendages, and that something is intimacy and the ways in which both reality and fantasy interfere with it.

Set in 1987, the drama is something of a throwback, but when it gets down to the business of trying to figure out just what men want in terms of sex, companionship and honesty, the year hardly matters because those things don’t seem to change much.

The promise of nudity will lure in the theatergoers (though probably not many of the Union Square tourists), but the play delivers something more substantial: a serious look at the difficulty of establishing human connection.

For information about 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night, visit www.LorraineHansberryTheatre.com.

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