Porn on Broadway? No, it's not the second coming of "Oh! Calcutta!" It's a new comedy called "The Performers," set amid the colorful vulgarity of an adult-movie awards show. The play opened Wednesday at the Longacre Theatre with a cast that includes Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Daniel Breaker and Cheyenne Jackson.
"The Performers," by David West Read, follows a tabloid journalist (Breaker) who is attending the awards show to interview a former high school classmate (Jackson) who has become a hot new porn actor named Mandrew. Along for the wild ride are the journalist's girlfriend (Silverstone); Mandrew's wife, whose name is Pussy Boots (Ari Graynor); and a veteran porn star named Chuck Wood (Winkler).
Read, 29, is making his Broadway debut with the play. The writer did his research by attending the annual Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas. (He recounted his adventures in a first-person account published last month in the New York Times.)
In 2010, Read presented his play "Happy Face" at the Pacific Playwrights Festival at South Coast Repertory.
How did critics react to the neophyte writer's big Broadway splash?
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote the play has the "most obscenities per minute of any play on Broadway" and yet it feels "like a throwback to the more discreetly risqué entertainments of 40 and 50 years ago." Despite some engaging moments, it soon becomes clear that the play "is going to the planet of second-tier sitcoms."
New York magazine's Scott Brown described the show as "an entirely insubstantial, where's-the-beef porn farce." The play features "merely good TV writing, without disciplined TV structure. There's not enough story even to sustain [the show's] slender 90 minutes."
David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter called the play "a so-so Broadway boulevard comedy with a generous dose of raunch. ... The cast works on this fluff like expert fluffers." The best of the cast, he said, is Graynor, who "creates an endearing character out of this ditz."
The New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz described the play as "a limp comedy" with a "murky" message. As for Winkler: "if the actor formerly known as Fonzie was trying to erase his family-friendly 'Happy Days' image, mission accomplished."
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