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‘The Deep Throat Sex Scandal’ Opens Off-Broadway

Production about the making and aftermath of the landmark 1970s porn film debuts to mixed reviews

‘The Deep Throat Sex Scandal’ Opens Off-Broadway

NEW YORK—David Bertolino's The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, directed by Jerry Douglas, made its Off-Broadway bow Sunday at the 45 Bleecker Theatre. But for The New York Times review, which can only be described as scathing, the other opening-night reviews are mostly mixed.

The play, according to a synopsis published in The New York Times, “takes you behind the scenes, into the secret world of adult filmmaking. and introduces you to the legendary Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems. Follow the bizarre journey from the creation of the movie, through the raids, arrests and the banning of the film, to the political fallout of the ensuing courtroom drama, which launched the career of Allen Dershowitz.”

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Dershowitz attended the opening, as did McKenna Marie Taylor, the daughter of iconic porn star Marilyn Chambers, who was supposed to have a small part in the production but passed away in April 2009. Lovelace died in 2002 following complications from a car accident. Reems currently lives in Utah and, despite many entreaties by Bertolino to participate in one way or another, declined to have any association with the production and even threatened to sue.

According to the Times, Bertolino, a theater newbie who previously made his living as a “costume salesman and Halloween fright park developer,” has spent three years developing the script (14 drafts), assembling a cast willing to emote in the nude, and gathering together a coalition of 24 investors in order to get the $700,000 necessary to mount the production. The Times article also notes that director Douglas, a longtime porn director, had a hand in revising the script, with polishing help from Bill Margold.

Previews began in September, but yesterday’s opening sparked the production’s first reviews, some of which have been excerpted below:

NY Post, Frank Scheck:

“It's an undeniably fascinating story, previously told in the documentary Inside Deep Throat, but this production takes a disappointingly cartoonish approach. Clearly attempting to ape the original film's, um, tongue-in-cheek style, playwright David Bertolino reduces the real-life figures to broad comic stereotypes while giving only perfunctory treatment to such darker aspects as its having been financed by mob figures and Lovelace's reported physical abuse by her husband.

“Featuring no shortage of male and female nudity, the play does have its fun moments, including a vigorous comic debate over the correct pronunciation of the word ‘clitoris’ and a lengthy monologue in which a prosecutor describes the film's content in hilariously clinical terms.”

New York Magazine, Scott Brown:

“The best that can be said about Scandal itself is that it's just as fine a play as Deep Throat was a film. That's only fitting, perhaps. The show was ginned up by an actual part-time pornographer (Jerry Douglas) and a haunted-house impresario (David Bertolino), and it exhibits all the worst and a few of the best characteristics of both those proud forms: abundant chintz, plenty of semi-relevant nudity, goofy prurience half-robed in ‘artistic’ credibility, and the distinct odor of cheap cologne infusing everything. But, unlike Busch and his troupe, the play isn't really in control of its own bad taste: It's a badly lit hotel-room orgy with a cold crudité plate, a lot of unironic mustaches, and an unshakable creep-show vibe. Plain old pacing and dramaturgy don't get much attention, either: There's a little over an hour's worth of actual material here, pumped up to two full acts.

“But let's get to the meat: Frank Blocker, playing Nixon-appointed anti-Throat prosecutor Larry Parrish, delivers what I believe could be, hands down, the most vivid, ornate and precise description of oral sex ever uttered on an American stage. It's part of his character's closing argument, the final nail in Reems's coffin. (He's being accused of obscenity, and Parrish—via Block—fashions, in words, something far more obscene than the mere visual image of someone's penis in someone else's mouth.) The drawling southern reactionary is hardly a fresh trope, but Blocker turns this particular moment into a triumph. It's the finest comic monologue I've seen in some time, and that's [insert ‘happy ending’ joke here].”

Capital New York, Wayne Hoffman

“Some minor production details prove annoying, from anachronistic musical choices (‘Afternoon Delight’ plays by a pool in 1972, four years before it was written) to masculine body-grooming styles that seem a bit unlikely for the era. Add some overly broad acting choices (particularly in secondary roles) and the very worst wigs ever seen on stage, and there's plenty to distract from the narrative.

“But a couple of moments really click: a hilariously filthy closing statement by courtroom prosecutor Larry Parrish (deadpanned in an infectious drawl by Frank Blocker), or a few genuinely touching moments where porn veteran Shana Babcock (Rita Rehn) becomes Linda's unlikely protector. And the two leads are charismatic enough to maintain interest for most of the show: Lori Gardner warms into her role as Linda, a vulnerable lost soul manipulated by nearly everyone she knows, and Malcolm Madera captures some of the amiable goofiness that made Harry Reems so appealing (even if the actor lacks the impressive moustache and other bearish qualities that earned Reems his "hairy" moniker).

“In the end, though, The Deep Throat Sex Scandal doesn’t go deep enough.”

TheaterMania.com, Chris Kompanek

“If the piece's more serious elements—especially towards the show's end—end up falling flat, there are some very entertaining moments. Moreover, both Bertolino and director Jerry Douglas deserve credit for not sensationalizing the adult film industry.

“One of the show's best moments is an exchange on the set between Reems and Lovelace after their big scene, where it becomes clear that a connection is forming between the two. Reems tells Lovelace that she doesn't need Chuck, and as they talk, it's easy to forget that they just shot a porno film. In fact, theatergoers may even be surprised how the show's frequent nudity even begins to feel normal.”

NewJerseyNewsroom.com, Michael Sommers

"David Bertolino's The Deep Throat Sex Scandal is merely a cartoonish depiction of the people and events surrounding the movie and its impact upon 1970s culture.

"Despite generous flashes of flesh, neither the sketchy dramatics nor director Jerry Douglas' hectic production proves sexy in the least. So in spite of its promisingly lurid title, the piece also fails to titillate viewers, let alone enlighten them effectively about the scandal [surrounding the movie]."

The New York Times, David Rooney

"The play brings no discernible point of view, no contemporary perspective beyond a winking Viagra allusion and a self-congratulatory coda, and no social context that couldn’t be gleaned in a quick Wiki hit.

"Its occasional mumbling about First Amendment rights seems more afterthought than agenda in this clumsy re-enactment of the film’s production, release and subsequent obscenity trials, which unfolds like a witless 'Laugh-In' sketch.

"Jerry Douglas’s slapdash production does nothing to minimize the ineptitude. I kept wondering whether there was some beyond-bad, trash-theater experimental aesthetic I was missing as the tone lurched from realism to campiness and back. It started to seem plausible that theatergoers were being punked."

BroadwayWorld.com has photo coverage of the opening here.

The Deep Throat Sex Scandal is scheduled to close Dec. 19. Ticket prices range from $25-$79.50 and can be ordered from www.telecharge.com or by calling 1-800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.






Related Content:

Deep Throat
Harry Reems
Marilyn Chambers
Jerry Douglas
Bill Margold
Linda Lovelace
Tom Hymes

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