Strip/Tease/Altered Ego | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Strip/Tease/Altered Ego 

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Strip/Tease, Bailiwick Repertory, and Altered Ego, Bailiwick Repertory. The voyeur-friendly Strip/Tease bares all to tell all. LA playwright Neal Weaver's slow-motion seduction lives up to its name: a hunky actor (Chris Kossen) engages in power games with his equally attractive teacher-director (Dennis Murphy). Instead of indulging in casting-couch cliches, the script focuses on the actor and director switching responsibilities: the actor wrestles with his urge to come out, and the director with his fear of commitment. Their actual audition is for love and not art.

Director David Zak fully honors the script's wishful thinking (or fantasy mongering). As is common in Bailiwick plays, stage nudity is crucial to self-exploration. And as played by Kossen, the actor's delight at being freed to take dramatic risks is plausible, even contagious. The fact that his newfound freedom leads to sex rather than better theater is ironic--a point not made in what's otherwise a very self-conscious play. Both performers are bona fide beefcake who earn their nudity and, it's implied, each other. But their performances, still shaky on opening night, need seasoning. Despite the feel-good New Age message and theatrical role-playing, the show's real "discovery" is that two hot guys can find each other in only two hours of feinting and sparring. What a relief.

There's no nudity in the 90-minute Altered Ego, subtitled "Stories of Love, Sex, the Gay Porn Industry and Secret Identities." Unlike his famous predecessors Ryan Idol and Jeff Stryker, who have also taken to the stage, former porn star Will Clark offers no monty, full or other, to his Bailiwick fans in this solo show. Instead, in rambling anecdotes about his career as a paid escort and busy bottom in the world of triple-X video, he laments his lack of recognition from porn peers, an abrupt breakup with his boyfriend (you know there's another side to that story), a psychosomatic rash, and his false association with a film about barebacking--which Clark considers an insult given his AIDS fund-raising. Postshow questions about America's sexual hypocrisy, Clark's future, and whether his family has seen his films were far more interesting than this self-serving piece.


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