Lisa Melinn and Brenton Herwat star in Ronnie Larsen's "Making Porn" at Ferndale's Ringwald Theatre through March 18. Photo: Joe Plambeck

Sometimes You Just Grin And Bare It

By John Quinn

Hard core pornography!

Now that I have your attention, consider what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote about the topic. "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it ..." Well, I've seen "Making Porn," and it's not pornography. Nor, the sign outside the Ringwald Theatre notwithstanding, is it strictly "A Comedy." It recalls a cliche of the past election cycle - you don't want to know what goes on in a sausage factory. It's messy.

"Making Porn" is set in San Francisco in the early 1980s. Would-be actor Jack Hawk (Brenton Herwat) is out of work and desperate. Having tested the waters of male erotica, he takes the plunge and lands on the doorstep of Arthur Mack (Joe Bailey), who hires him to star in his latest porn movie. "Cops" cast includes Ray Tanner (Dan Morrison), a veteran of 70 films, but only remembered for a single scene. Ray ekes out a living from personal appearances and hustling. In stark contrast is Ricky (Bailey Boudreau), 19, new in town and working his way through college. There's a hitch: Jack's straight. How will his wife, Linda (Lisa Melinn), react when she finds out about her husband's career path? How will Arthur react when he finds out his partner-in-life-and-business, Jamie (Richard Payton), falls in love with one of the actors?

Blue Blake is a real life porn actor who once produced "Making Porn" and played Ray Tanner. "I've never made a porn movie and found it sexy." What's true about film can be said for the stage. While Jack, Ray and Ricky cavort in the nude, it's so clinical that it isn't erotic. Sorry, Ricky, there's no glamour here. However, there's a laugh a minute as the play explores the conventions of the gay film industry. I may never be able to look at a milk shake again without a snicker.

Joe Bailey directs "Making Porn" and plays Arthur as well. That combination frequently leads to a shaky production, since the director can't stand back far enough to get the big picture. That hasn't happened here. Bailey has played the role a number of times - in fact, with the aforementioned Blue Blake - and his familiarity with the material has rubbed off in his cast.

The performances are remarkably natural, each character sincerely portrayed. This is indeed a formidable ensemble. But Bailey's most satisfying achievement is the delicate balance between silly and somber, since "Making Porn" is a difficult script. It's set in the '80s, and sex in the City by the Bay is shadowed by a "killer disease that affects only gay men." The film industry, just like the rest of the world, must react to a crisis. That's a serious theme to inject into a comedy, but the Ringwald troupe deftly weaves it all together.

To my mind, doubling municipal parking fees is pretty obscene, but since the new machines aren't performing as advertised, this was "Get into Ferndale Free Weekend." For entertainment like "Making Porn," coughing up the extra coins is worth it.

Making Porn contains nudity and adult situations. No one under 18 will be admitted.

REVIEW:

'Making Porn'

The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday & Monday through March 18. 1 hour, 45 minutes. Contains nudity and adult situations; no one under 18 will be admitted. $10-20. http://www.TheRingwald.com

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