Making Porn

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Larsen, left, with porn star Jeff Stryker

Making Porn had its world premiere in Chicago in July of 1995 at the Theatre Building. A cult classic, it has been performed hundreds of times in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Italy. It comes from the pen of Ronnie Larsen, who has written plays with titles such as The All-Male Peepshow, 10 Naked Men (about prostitution in Hollywood), Shooting Porn, My Boyfriend the Stripper and Cocksucker: A Love Story. You get the idea.

The lead actor of this production is Craig Moody, and this is his official debut as a pro actor. The role of Jack ideally requires a very handsome man with a perfect body. And oh yes, the ability to act really well. Let’s just say the casting director made a good choice.

Speaking of directors, everyone gets in on the act – quite literally. The director of the play is one of the lead actors. Keith Dougherty fills the role of porn film producer Arthur, who is willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck. And the executive producer of Empire Stage himself, David Gordon, fills the role of Ray Tanner, a very experienced porn film star.

By the way, there are no real porn actors in this play, but Larsen makes repeated mention of Jeff Stryker in the play as the porn star of porn stars - one who has a perfect body, huge cock and gorgeous face. The photo with this review shows them together.

Craig Moody starsCraig Moody starsArthur’s mate and helper is Jamie, played by Larry Buzzeo. The program notes make it clear he has “never resorted to actually making porn” but he is willing to wear as many hats as needed to pay the bills! In the play he falls in love with the teenager Ricky, played by Florida Atlantic University grad Ryan Mahannah. He brings just the right fresh-faced look to the role. The cast is completed by Jennifer Zabalo, a graduate of New World School of the Arts, as the feisty wife of porn star Jack.

The play follows the porn careers of Ricky and Jack, and they could not be more different. Ricky wants to do porn, Jack is making a few porn appearances to pay the bills without his wife knowing about it.

“Why do you want to be in porn? It gets old real fast” Ray says to Ricky at the beginning of the play. “It’s the perfect job for a gay man,” replies Ricky. Gordon (as Ray) exudes just the level of wearied resignation the part requires throughout the play. Having seen it all, Ray is the only one who is grounded in reality.

The play also follows the stormy personal life of Art and Jamie. On the set Art is the demanding porn director who is rarely satisfied. “I need someone who can shoot long, steady streams. I’ve got too many dribblers,” he complains.

Jaime can’t take it anymore and tells Art that his “one talent is treating people like shit.” He goes off to live with Ricky. “I’m having an affair because I want to be touched by someone who doesn’t repulse me,” Jaime screams at Art. Both actors, who have had many years of theatrical experience, set a high bar of stage presence for the ensemble cast.

Mahannah and BuzzeoMahannah and BuzzeoHow all this plays out on the set of the studio where they are trying to make a porn movie about cops is what gives the play some structure. It all falls apart when Jack’s wife finds out what he is doing, but instead of divorcing him she tries to become his manager and make him into a cash cow by selling his body in more porn movies! Zabalo plays this with bitchy perfection.

I won’t give away the ultimate denouement just in case you don’t know already (hey, it’s been around for nearly 20 years!). The cast, both with clothes and completely naked in the intimate venue of the Empire Stage, do a superb job with this fast-paced and provocative script.

Due to a great response from the public, Making Porn has been extended to March 23. Visit the website for tickets: www.empirestage.com

Clifford Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist currently affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute. He did his PhD work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. He is the author of 12 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honour by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1990.

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