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The Deep Throat Sex Scandal: Theater Review

The Deep Throat Sex Scandal Play Still - H 2013
Ed Krieger
Bart Tancredi, left, and Marc Ginsburg

The Bottom Line

Genial recap of familiar story, heavy on exposition and light on insight. 

Venue

Zephyr Theatre (runs through March 3)

Cast

Marc Ginsburg, Natasha Charles Parker, Alec Tomkiw, Herschel Savage, Veronica Hart, Frank Blocker, Michael Rachlis, Bart Tangredi

Director

Jerry Douglas

Playwright

David Bertolino

The Zephyr Theatre production exposes the drama behind the seminal 1970s adult film.

Deep Throat (the movie, not the tipster) was unquestionably a watershed cultural moment in 1972, bringing the porno movie from the underground into the mainstream, and with it a new public acknowledgement of the realities of sex. As narrator and lead cocksman Harry Reems (Marc Ginsburg) introduces it, it remains the second-most-famous blow job in history, surpassed only by “Monica.”

Arguably the most profitable movie in real dollars in history (though lacking any reliable accounting, the show’s claim of $600 million gross sounds dubious by a decimal point), Gerald Damiano’s “f--- film with lines” originally bombed until a possibly put-up prosecution in New York City secured its notoriety and crossover acceptance. A later spurious prosecution in Memphis federal court for conspiracy -- even though the movie had never played in Tennessee, nor had any of the defendants ever entered the state until charged -- laid waste to the lives of many of the participants.

For one who remembers the era well, including the impact of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. California shifting the definition of “patently offensive” from a national to a local standard (a decision that figures crucially in the story), The Deep Throat Sex Scandal may be about as accurate as a good term paper, though meaningfully short of a vetted reference work. It would come close enough to truth for dramatic purposes, except it is so inextricably tethered to narration and illustration that there is little development beyond storytelling gloss.

There have been so many derivative works based on the same history, from the more thorough and reliable 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat to the splendidly inventive and perceptive 2009 locally premiered rock musical, Lovelace, that this pleasant and sympathetic yet relatively pedestrian rendering lacks much justification save for those thoroughly uninitiated.

Regrettably, Natasha Charles Parker as Linda Lovelace approaches the role so timorously that Lovelace’s own abuse-shocked personality overwhelms the performance. Ginsburg makes an effective everyman as the notorious Reems, here an ingenuous actor easily seduced by the zeitgeist, while Herschel Savage engenders endearing empathy as the amiably deluded director Damiano, hairdresser by day and aspirant to high art when the mob money comes through for something more ambitious than a “loop.”

At the opening-night performance, guest star Sally Kirkland made the most of some zinger blue one-liners in a cameo as a cashier at the World Theatre near Times Square where the movie debuted.

Nevertheless, a closing montage of works supposedly made possible by the pioneering Deep Throat makes a hash of credibility when nearly half were made before its release. And at least for anyone who partook of the fruits of that revolutionary time, period authenticity was critically undermined from the start at the sight of an off-off Broadway actress in 1970 naked in her dressing room with rigorously shaved pubic hair. If actors can grow a beard for a role, then…

Venue: Zephyr Theatre (runs through Mar. 3)
Cast: Marc Ginsburg, Natasha Charles Parker, Alec Tomkiw, Herschel Savage, Veronica Hart, Frank Blocker, Michael Rachlis, Bart Tangredi
Director: Jerry Douglas
Playwright-Producer: David Bertolino
Set Designer: Adam Haas Hunter
Lighting Designer: Alex Cohen
Sound & Projection Designer: Norm Kern
Costume Designer: Kate Bishop