Foolish Sun

Eric Piepenburg HARD KNOCK LIFE Fool the Sun Sinks I once reviewed a show called Tiff and Mom: I Know Who You Did Last Summer, a late-night Halloween sketch comedy/musical review at a tiny Chicago theater. Tiff and Mom were two butch drag queens, and their audience was made up of drunk frat boys and their drunker girlfriends who apparently didn’t realize they were watching ugly men in bad wigs. One musical number required a working chainsaw, and the device’s noxious fumes lingered in the theater for the entire three-hour ordeal with such toxic force that my companion left the theater and promptly vomited on the sidewalk. It was the most harrowing night of my career as a theater critic. Until now. As dreadful as it was, at least Tiff and Mom made me laugh once (something about pendulous breasts bouncing up and down gets me every time). That cannot be said for Not Fool The Sun: Fester ‘n Sexx at the National Zipper Company, a ghastly car wreck of play about the early days of gay porn, scripted and directed by one Pete Florax, seen in a very short run (thank god!) at the Pelican Theater. Poorly written, sloppily acted, lazily directed, sadly lit, and clocking in at a whopping, unforgivable two hours, the show was a disaster. It’s 1964, and Johnny Sexx (Dave Durkin) is a flaming, sibilant, scarf-wearing gay porn director (think South Park’s Big Gay Al) who’s in cahoots with mob man Fester (Steven Tresty) to direct an underground gay skin flick called A Hard Boy’s Right. Added to the mix are two straight crew members (Randy Barrier and Mike Bochetti), a young gay production assistant (Jason Altman, the only cast member to show any sign of talent), and his stars: a leading man (Chris O’Neill) and a nervous young NYU straight-acting student (Brian Rush). Florax’s script is a loose collection of… stuff. It reads the way a socially awkward straight high school nerd talks: obnoxiously staccato non-sequitors, guffaws at jokes only he understands, endless details about sports, music, and women he’ll never sleep with, and—yet again—getting it up the ass. When one of the straight characters jokes, “What do you say we make like fags and pack our shit?” I wasn’t sure whether to chuckle or file a hate crime complaint. For a play about porn you’d think a little flesh would be flaunted. But the only character to take his shirt off is hardly the stuff of gay porn, and the actual shooting scenes take place off stage. There isn’t even a kiss or embrace. Still, give Florax a crumb of credit for writing gay characters with an underhanded sensitivity that’s both playful and respectful.