Sex, drama and Impact’s Naked Guy

Nov 13

Naked Guy gets fully extended – now through Dec. 18!

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Steven Satyricon is the titular naked guy and Jai Sahai is the adoring Harold in Impact Theatre’s The Play About the Naked Guy. Below: Monica Cappuccini (center) is Mrs. Anderson, a Connecticut moneybags trying to woo her daughter away from off off Broadway theater. Photos by Cheshire Isaacs

Salacious (and accurate) title aside, David Bell’s The Play About the Naked Guy is a little bit sweet and a whole lotta funny. The Impact Theatre production, affectionately and astutely directed by Evren Odcikin, satirizes everything about theater, from pompous artists obsessed with obscure classics to sleazy svengalis who pander to the lowest common denominator. This play is what you want and expect from Impact – big laughs, energetic performances and just enough potentially offensive material to feel hip and edgy.

Take an overly sincere off-off-Broadway company called The Integrity Players and force them into producing borderline stage porn, and you’ve got a recipe for some delicious comedy. Odcikin and his knowing cast blow through this naughty silliness with comic abandon, offering more titters than titillation.

Dan (Brian McManus), the artistic force behind The Integrity Players (“Sounds like a Christian soccer league,” says one quippy gay), believes passionately in two things: his tremendous talent as an actor/director/theatrical genius and the value of, as he lays it on, “real, live, living, breathing, real, live theater.” Into his web of absurdly sincere devotion to plays like The Ha’penny of Brixton Street or The Perplexities of Tristan, Dan pulls his pregnant wife, Amanda (Eliza Leoni), though she’s more often called names like Pretty and Princess, and Harold (Jai Sahai), their star thespian.

With cast members more often outnumbering audience members, Integrity Players is going down the toilet. Amanda’s mother, Mrs. Anderson (Monica Cappuccini), is their only funder, and she’s only doing that to ensure that her daughter doesn’t starve to death. When she pulls all financial support, Integrity must resort to desperate extremes for survival.

Those extremes come in the form of Eddie (John Ferreira), a producer whose specialty is casting porn stars in mediocre stage creations and watching the money pour in. “Slap some fresh meat on the stage, and the jackals will come to feed,” he says. And he’s right. With his two drugged-up, finger-snapping succubae at his side, T. Scott (Adrian Anchondo) and Edonis (Timitio Artusio), Eddie is the reigning dark lord of cheap, nudie theater with titles like Naked Boys Running Around Naked and Frat Boys Making Porn. He’s the antithesis of Dan and Integrity, but he’s got what Dan needs: access to filthy lucre.

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Mrs. Anderson sees a prime opportunity to see Integrity fail and drive a wedge between her Princess and Princess’ too intensely theatrical husband, so she steps up as lead producer. Dan and Amanda see an opportunity to save their art. And Harold, freshly out of the closet, sees a big object of lust in his porn-star co-star, Kit Swagger (Steven Satyricon) as they rehearse a decidedly campy spin on The Passion of the Christ called Jesus Christ, He’s Hot! (I have to assume there’s an exclamation point even though it’s not technically a musical, though there are mighty techno beats and Amanda does play Madonna – not Jesus’ mom but mother of our Lourdes).

Playwright Bell invites his actors to have all kinds of fun with gay stereotypes, and boy do they. “Jesus Timberlake Christ!” one exclaims, while another sighs, “Heavens to Oprah.” The two sidekicks say “Yay!” hundreds of times (well, maybe not hundreds but there’s still a drinking game to be had here), and Eddie thinks he knows everything there is to know about the realities of theater. “No one goes to Cymbeline because they want to!” he snaps. They’d much rather ogle naked flesh, and maybe he’s right.

Bell also peppers his comedy with theater jokes that will appeal to a very limited audience – as Paul Rudnick once told me, “There are some jokes only theater dogs can hear.” But those dogs will enjoy the references to, among others, Marian Seldes, Patti LuPone, Charles Isherwood, Mary Martin and Sutton Foster.

Part of the fun of Naked Guy is how much fun the actors are having, but amid the sexy shenanigans, there are two truly outstanding performances. Cappuccini as the Westport matron with the power and attitude afforded her by a bottomless checking account is absolutely hilarious. In her smart white pantsuit (costumes by Miyuki Bierlein), Mrs. Anderson sasses up a storm and shoots wicked barbs like some martini-swilling weapon of mass destruction. She has lust in her heart for the gay porn star and contempt for everyone but her daughter.

The other piece of brilliance comes from Sahai as Harold, a sincere and befuddled “new gay” as the annoying sidekicks keep calling him. Too well spoken for his own good, Harold finds solace in words, and Sahai has a real way with all that dialogue – it’s impressive and pathetic at the same time, sincere and sincerely funny.

The Play About the Naked Guy does have a brain in its silly, satirical head, which only deepens the laughs, and yes, Virginia, there is a penis, so don’t bring the kids to the beer-soaked basement theater under the pizza parlor.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Impact Theatre’s The Play About the Naked Guy by David Bell continues an extended run through Dec. 18 at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$20. Visit www.impacttheatre.com or www.brownpapertickets.com for information.

One comment

  1. Eddie Christie /

    Is there anyway to put this show on the road? I live in Boston and have no way of getting to LA to see this. I heard tons of great stuff about this production. Also, maybe it could be video tapped (old term, I know) and sold.

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