The Penis Chronicles
THE PENIS CHRONICLES
Review by Neal Weaver
Through December 14
Apparently playwright Tom Yewell wanted to provide a male variation on The Vagina Monologues. The title might suggest that the show is a bit of pornography or an exercise in sensationalism, but the play is neither, despite a brief interlude of male nudity. It is, rather, a series of eight engaging and provocative monologues, dealing with male vulnerabilities and sexual dilemmas.
Trey (Kyle Eastman) is young-looking, even for being 16. He’s traumatized by the fact that, unlike most of his classmates, he has not yet entered puberty, and having to shower in high school gym class subjects him to the humiliating jokes and jibes about his hairless, undeveloped body.
Brin (Ritchie Hoffman) is an enviable star high school athlete, with a seemingly perfect life, but he broods in secret over the sexually ambiguous behavior of his father.
Roman (Ali Zahiri) abandoned his Ivy-League education and successful Wall Street career when he discovered his true vocation as a call boy/male escort.
Artemis (Ozzie Rodriguez) was once a star athlete, till he had an automobile accident that killed his dream-girl. Now he has grown fat due to his reliance on comfort food and compulsive eating to assuage his guilt.
Shane (Trevor Scott Campbell) is a farm-boy who discovers his homosexuality when he’s given a boy’s book about youthful circus performer Toby Tyler. The cover picture of Toby, clad in a sexy red loin-cloth, inspires his first, passionate crush, and defines the path of his future.
Tor (Ethan Rains) has been embittered by betrayal, and his discovery that he is HIV positive, infected by the woman he loves.
Rhapsody Fontaine (Jade Willis) is a glamorous Bronx-born drag queen, who turned to hustling to finance his boob job and a summer camp for his battered little brother, who had been savagely beaten by their father.
And Stanton (Kelly Franett) is a sexually active older man, humiliated by the fact that, as he passes the age of 60, he’s no longer responsive to sexual stimulation, and must rely on Viagra in order to perform.
Writer Yewell offers a sharp and sympathetic view of his characters, and though he doesn’t stint the darker aspects of his tales, he also provides comic relief, inspiring the laughter of recognition from both men and in the audience. It’s very much a New York play, and the separate monologues are sometimes linked by relationships between the characters.
Movie director Randal Kleiser (The Blue Lagoon, Grease) gives the piece an impeccable production, assisted by Cricket Myers’s sound design, Austin Burkett’s lights, Greg O’Connor’s incidental music, and colorful slide-shows edited by Brian Perez. All of the actors are terrific, etching their characters with sure and perceptive hands.
TPC Play and LLC at The Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Boulevard, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m., through Dec. 14. (323) 960-7787, www.plays411.com/penischronicles