PLEASUREBUSINESSVODAVN AWARDS 2014

Located in: Home > Business > Video News > Review: The Deep Throat Sex Scandal—UPDATED

Review: The Deep Throat Sex Scandal—UPDATED

Short version: IT ROCKS!!! Seriously!

Review: The Deep Throat Sex Scandal—UPDATED

UPDATE: Well, it seems that the show's producer, David Bertolino, really liked this review—so much so that he offered me the part of the judge in this week's shows, April 4-7. I get to attempt to fill the shoes of such fine actors as Tom Byron, Paul Thomas and Christopher Knight, who've played that character of the past few weeks. Playing the ticket-taker this week will be Mariko Passions, who comes highly recommended by none other than Annie Sprinkle.

Perhaps the better news is that for the show's final two weeks, those who purchase their tickets through Goldstar.com can see the show for just 10 bucks! There are a limited number of such $10 seats available, and they can be purchased here.

ADVERTISEMENT

So if you want to see an aging AVN journalist whose specialty is legal stories playing the judge who convicted Harry Reems of obscenity, now's your chance!

HOLLYWOOD—The Zephyr Theater on Melrose, which is hosting The Deep Throat Sex Scandal during its L.A. run, is a bit small and not much to look at, but last night several dozen Angelenos were treated to a sexually themed performance about a topic of perennial public interest—the seminal adult film Deep Throat and all the hoopla surrounding it—that kept them riveted and laughing almost throughout the evening.

To be fair, they probably weren't supposed to find the second act very amusing, but we'll get to that in a minute. As the play opens, an elderly Herbert Streicher, sporting a white mustache, Trilby hat and raincoat, strides out on stage, points to the poster of Deep Throat projected on the screen behind him, and announces, "Okay, that's where it all began. The shot heard 'round the world. One little fuck film."

We won't say what happens just after that, since we don't want to spoil too many of the myriad surprises that this excellent script by David Bertolino delivers. Suffice to say that in short order, Herb, played with likeable energy by Marc Ginsburg, identifies himself as the man behind adult film personality Harry Reems, and begins to take the audience on a tour through his career in porn—oops; sorry; according to 'Gerard Damiano,' "Never use the word 'porn' in my presence. Around here, we don't make porn; we make 'adult films'; capiche?"—starting with his days as a "nice Jewish boy" living in Westchester, N.Y., in the early '70s, hanging out with hippies, marching in anti-war protests, and taking off-off-off-Broadway acting jobs when he could get them.

But it seems that a couple of Herb's fellow performers, Tim (Michael Rachlis) and Gilda (Natasha Charles Parker), don't just work in the dim shadow of professional theater; they're also veteran adult film performers who are only too happy to help Herbie get his start in the business. They direct him to adult talent agent Mona (played with verve and just the right note of sarcasm by the incredibly talented Veronica Hart), who sets him up with hairdresser/adult director Gerard Damiano as a production manager for Gerry's upcoming "Florida project." Also about to come on board for that same shoot is adult newcomer Linda Lovelace (also played by Parker), who's clearly under the domination of her manager-husband, Chuck Traynor (Alec Tomkiw), who responds to any question or comment directed at the petite beauty ... and slaps her around when no one's looking.

Of course, the "Florida project" is Deep Throat, and most of the first act revolves around the making of that movie and its opening at the World Theater in Times Square—and mobster/producer Vito's (Bart Tangredi) attempts to generate interest in the film by arranging for it to get busted three different times and then having the charges dismissed, both courtesy of mob-controlled local judges.

Occasionally, the adult-oriented action is interrupted by phone conversations between infamous religious moralist/censor Charles Keating (also Tangredi) and Memphis D.A. Larry Parrish (Frank Blocker) about how to arrange to have Deep Throat's stars and producers prosecuted for obscenity in his jurisdiction, and as Act One ends, Herbie's being hauled off by a couple of FBI agents to stand trial in front of a Memphis judge played unflinchingly by former Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight.

But as funny as Act One was, Act Two opens seriously and stays that way for most of its run. Still told from Streicher's point of view, the plot relates the events that occurred at the trial, where Streicher/Reems finds himself as the lone performer defendant (Damiano was given immunity in order to testify for the prosecution, and Parrish felt that indicting Lovelace would cause him to lose sympathy with the jury) along with 11 members of the Colombo crime family. A secondary plotline involves Linda, with the help of older performer Shana Babcock (Veronica Hart yet again!) trying to break away from Chuck's domination and take charge of her own life and career.

During the trial phase, the audience is treated to another fine performance by Herschel Savage as attorney Alan Dershowitz, who handled Streicher's appeal after his inevitable conviction, and as students of porn adult film already know, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Streicher's conviction because the judge had applied the wrong law to the case. We can't exactly say that everyone lives happily ever after, but a "postscript" after the first curtain call has Streicher/Reems relating what happened to most of the characters after the "Deep Throat scandal" was over.

As far as the performances themselves, Bertolino has done an almost perfect job of casting. Ginsburg adopts just the right persona to play Harry Reems, both as an older retiree and his bawdy younger self: Brash, funny, sometimes bewildered, sometimes deadly serious. If he falls down anywhere, it's his portrayal of the drunk that Streicher became at the end of his porn adult career, but aside from that, he hits every note beautifully. (We're also told he's a pretty good singer.)

But if anyone stands above the others, it's Veronica Hart, who portrays about a dozen characters during the play's roughly 90-minute running time. Besides Mona and Shana, she also essays one of Damiano's beauty parlor customers, a hippie, a protester and a couple of other minor roles we won't reveal here, but are funny nonetheless. And yes, the audience does get to see her bare boobs.

In fact, another thing that's notable about the play is even the mainstream actors' comfort with partial or full nudity. Both Ginsburg's and and Rachlis' characters get fully naked at points during the production, as do both of Parker's, and it's all taken in stride.

One guy who's always fully clothed is Tomkiw, whose portrayal of Chuck Traynor is both well-formed and chilling—a character the audience can really hate, even if there are some quibbles about how much of an asshole Traynor really was in real life.

Perhaps the least approachable character is Linda Lovelace, again played with eerie perfection by Parker. Though not very tall in real life, Parker plays her character even smaller and so achingly timid in the presence of Traynor that one has the urge to run up on stage and shake her, shouting, "What the hell are you doing to yourself?!?" But there's a beautiful moment in the second act when she's on the phone, breaking off her relationship with Traynor, where her voice audibly changes from that timid soul to that of a more mature woman, and it's gratifying to hear it.

And we can't forget Nina Hartley, whose one of the "guest stars" (along with Knight) whose run ends Sunday night. She's cast as the ticket-taker for Deep Throat's New York opening, and manages some funny repartee with the NY D.A. (also Tomkiw) trying to close down the show.

One thing that's abundant clear is that in writing this play, Bertolino has done his research. For instance, we're pretty sure that once the production did get to Miami, Damiano lost the use of the mansion where he was going to shoot, but managed to talk the manager of the motel where the cast was staying into letting them shoot some scenes in and around the motel pool in exchange for letting him watch, though we're not sure whether his wish to have both Lovelace and Babcock autograph his underwear is part of the historical record. (Incidentally, the "Shana Babcock" character is a compilation of several adult actresses of the era, including probably Veronica Hart herself, but most notably Marilyn Chambers, who married Traynor after Lovelace divorced him, and who bristled a bit at Bertolino's characterization of him. Chambers was supposed to play the Babcock character during the play's New York run, but if memory serves, died shortly before the play was to open.)

We're also pretty sure that the summation which prosecutor Parrish gives before the Memphis jury is lifted more-or-less directly from the trial transcript, and Blocker pulls off that performance with its proper seriousness but also with an undertone that allows the audience to titter a bit during pauses in the speech.

Bottom line: The Deep Throat Sex Scandal is a triumph of both writing and acting, and anyone who has any interest in adult film, obscenity law, the mindset of adult performers, or just in Deep Throat itself, owes it to him/herself to catch at least one performance of this excellent play. Hartley and Knight will be appearing as the ticket-taker and judge through this Sunday, and the following Thursday, the original 'Miss Jones,' Georgina Spelvin, will take over the ticket-taker role (a role that we're told will be her last public appearance), plus we've heard a rumor from a knowledgeable source that the play's run will be extended, and that the fine character actress Frances Fisher will be appearing at some point in the near future.

If at all possible, don't miss this excellent play. Tickets can be purchased here.






Related Content:

Veronica Hart
Georgina Spelvin
Nina Hartley
Herschel Savage
Mark Kernes

Comments

 /
Please log in to comment.
Don't have a free account? Become a member!


By participating you agree to our Privacy Policy & the AVN "Be Kind Policy"
and represent that you are not under the age of 18.

Related Topics







AVN.com