The Deep Throat Sex Scandal

nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
October 8, 2010

I didn't expect much of anything from David Bertolino's play, The Deep Throat Sex Scandal. I figured it was going to be another unfunny attempt at comedy, like so many other plays. I even started coming up with headline puns, "Deep Throat Sucks," among them.

But Bertolino's play, directed by Jerry Douglas at the Theatres at 45 Bleecker is, bizarrely, really entertaining. A great American play it's not; far from it. But it's a well-intentioned diversion that knows its audience and delivers what it promises: "a sinfully entertaining play about freedom."

In a nutshell, the play is about the making of and subsequent legal battle over Gerard Damiano's legendary adult film Deep Throat (you know, the one about the woman who goes to the doctor and finds that a crucial pleasure center is located in, ahem, her throat.). Guiding us is Herbert Streicher, a horny, wannabe actor from the Bronx who would later become Harry Reems, the star of Deep Throat and such fare as For Your Thighs Only and The Devil in Miss Jones.

The first act focuses on how Reems, Linda Lovelace, and Damiano got together to make Deep Throat. The second concerns Reems's subsequent arrest, indictment, conviction and acquittal in Memphis, Tennessee, on charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines.

With an unreliable narrator in Reems, the "boring parts" of the trial are, thankfully, glossed over. The first act, which contains a reenactment of filming Deep Throat, in complete sync with the actual film as it's projected on the upstage wall, is deliriously entertaining; despite the B-movie dialogue and jokes that weren't funny in the '70s. The second act becomes unexpectedly serious, and that's where the script's weaknesses are the most prevalent. There is a lack of suspense and development and the stakes aren't nearly as high as they should be.

If there is any question if this one is suitable for children, look at the list of creative consultants: adult film stars Ron Jeremy, William "Bill" Margold, and the late Marilyn Chambers, whose ashes are, apparently, part of the set. This is not a show for the faint-of-heart or anyone under 18. Like any good adult film, there's dirty talk, simulated oral and missionary sex, and full frontal nudity from both genders.

The cast, led by the mesmerizing Malcolm Madera as Reems, gives this show their all, and then some. Lori Gardner is charmingly meek as Lovelace, an underwritten character with little motivation for any of her actions. Frank Blocker is outstanding as Larry Parrish, the prosecutor who tries to bring Reems down. He expertly delivers a show-stopping monologue in the second act that is nothing more than a description of a blow job.

One crucial thing Bertolino's script fails to mention: the future of the central characters. We learn a little about what happened to Reems, how he turned to drugs and alcohol and later found God, but nothing more than that. The details of Lovelace's later years, including her death of injuries sustained from a car crash, are ignored.

Either he or Douglas, who is credited with "additional written material," has created a fascinating final moment for the show, a retrospective of all of the mainstream movies, television shows, and plays that would not have been around if Deep Throat hadn't existed. If only the entire play were as thought-provoking as that last five minutes.

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