In New York City, crossing paths with a man who is stripped down to his skivvies as he spews sexually depraved comments is just another Wednesday on the way to work. Voluntarily shelling out hard earned crisp greens to witness such antics on a Saturday night, however, is probably not as common.
Alas, ascend three flights of stairs at The Players Theatre on a weekend evening and the evidence is as shocking as the thoroughly uncensored material. And even if those New Yorkian instincts to keep on walking kick in, standard etiquette is to wait until at least intermission. Coincidentally, the production runs straight through with no opportunities to chew on some Raisinets or make a mad dash.
‘The Accidental Pervert’ which originally workshopped at the 45th Street Theater and then debuted off-off Broadway at the Triad Theatre has landed an extended run at an even more remote venue on MacDougal Street in the West Village.
The play, a one man show starring comedian and writer, Andrew Goffman, tells the story of a young boy who accidently stumbles upon his father’s contraband stash of extensive pornography: a discovery whose results dictate the young man’s relationship with sex and women until the age of 26 when he begins his own family and purges his mind of all non PG thoughts–at least for the most part.
After Goffman has unleashed his unfathomable collection of pornography—videotapes, magazines, books, assorted paraphanelia— he states, ‘And they weren’t masterpieces of traditional theater…I’m talking porno.’ A similar analysis could be surmised of the production itself, which certainly will not rank among the laudabale classics of Stephen Sondheim and Lorenz Hart, but offers a buffet of seductive, brash moments in which one becomes transfixed, eager for whatever thunderbolt of uncouthness will follow.
By the end of the play ones mind is bountifully stocked with a library of haunting images, the vividness of which can only be dulled by an aggressive shower and several glasses of bourbon. Performed with daring gusto, Goffman irrefutably accumulates points for shamelessly flouncing about the stage bringing the boundless, sometimes revolting imagination of a young, hormone possessed adolescent to life.
Full disclosure are the main ingredients in this dauntless portrayal of the adolescent, male sex-crazed mind. After demonstrating a pelvic-centric dance in which Goffman chirps about his smoldering love affair with his mesh jersey—which aided him in a certain one man show below his belt, the fearless actor proceeds to rattle off his favorite porno-cinematic experiences; ‘Star whores’, ‘Poke a Hot Ass’, ‘Sleepy Booty’, and one that is really for the kids, ‘I Cream on Genie’.
These crude, but no doubt catchy titles, comprised a great deal of the humor in the play. An especially comical moment was when a baritone, sinister voice on a loudspeaker echoed the words, ‘Who’s your father?’ turning the epic line from the ‘Star Wars’ film into a naughty seduction scene.
However, these surefire jokes began to lose their mojo after the first fifteen minutes. Much of the play was driven by a series of anticipated punch lines, often times punctuated by instructional animated sound effects notifying the audience that it was time to laugh.
Some of the giggles may have been genuine, but most seemed inspired by extreme discomfort. Perhaps some of the visits down pornography lane hit too close to home for some in the audience, or perhaps the middle aged married couples looking forward to a nice piece of theater had had enough of watching a grown man masturbate with a mesh jersey— though to be fair the title does not exactly suggest the sequel to ‘South Pacific’.
At times such vaudevillian, camp -like sketches created the feeling of a cartoonish fill-in-the-blanks PBS program only suitable for sexually crazed maniacs with a proclivity for puppets. And at other times, it rang like an x-rated game show. In more than one instance, the script did not even bother with a punch line but rather cued a slide of a well-known celebrity or television character, who were somehow meant to drive the joke home with the mere presence of their shining faces.
Glimpses of sincere sentiment were woven throughout the play, which if cemented and carried through, may have softened the crashing cymbals of the garish, somewhat infantile comedy. When Goffman recalls his first sexual encounter, he seems to be going for poignant sentiment, but the tenderness is immediately mowed over by a glorified monologue in a booming superhero voice, in which he refers to himself as ‘Andy Third Leg’ and proceeds to praise his member as though it were an Olympic gold medal.
Some of the images were so grotesque they would scare even the most perverse of men into a flaccid state. What stung most was the elaborately portrayed scene of a morbidly obese, floppy-breasted, 50-year-old nanny named Netty, shimmeying about an under aged boy’s room (Andy’s), who proceeds to motorboat his fleshy guardian with unbridled enthusiasm.
Shimmering embers of provocative pathos glower again when Andy alludes to his ambiguous, yet clearly lacking relationship with his father. Aside from the obvious, carnal joys extracted from his serendipitous findings, Andy hopes to learn more about his distant dad through the vast catalogue of salacious treats.
Full of the naiveté of a young boy, Andy imagined that the fatherhood answers to questions about screwdrivers, date etiquette, and Windsor knots lied in the treasure trove of seedy porn. However, sadly all that he discovers is that, ‘In the world of porn the more beautiful a woman is the more likely she is to whip a guy.’
Goffman hits on another potentially insightful thought when he captures the eternal child-parent conundrum, ‘You don’t think of your dad having sex, you think of them taking naps, you envision them as ken dolls, without genitals.’ This profound, colorfully worded revelation shrewdly depicts children’s inclination to dehumanize their parents, shutting their eyes to any sign of weakness, unfamiliarity, or vulnerability. To a child, a parent must be infallible, even if that calls for castration.
The trouble is none of these moments linger long enough for the audience to develop any solid connection with the characters. The abrupt, unpaved shift from Andy skipping about romanticizing the degradation of women to the sudden nostalgic melancholy about his father’s death leaves audience members more confused than sympathetic.
And it is an understandable challenge to evoke pity from a group of people when the previous 45 minutes has been a whooshing collage of phantom masturbation and jarring puns like ‘Rita de Bona from B-lown-ia’.
Goffman’s most succesful moments were when he departed from the book and spontaneously interacted with the audience. These servings of adlib revealed his admirable ability to transform an uncertain moment into something witty and entertaining— a talent which he probably makes much use of as a stand-up comedian.
What ‘The Accidental Pervert’ lacked in dramatic gravity, it certainly compensated for in an earnest, energetic performance from Goffman. But at times his over zealous approach would boil over, and in these momets the play would unintentionally mimmick the struggles of an inexperienced lover, fumbling about clumsily in the dark, revealing amateur ardency where practiced skill lacked.
Finally, much of the substance of the play seems to derive from Andy’s insistence that he was unusual, different, almost debilitatingly peculiar. Yet he seems to derive his individuality from his lurid relationship with porn, referring to his ‘condition’ as a result of a ‘porn influenced adolescent brain.’ But does this not beg the obvious question; isn’t that every teenage male?
Regardless, the next time a scantily clad, questionable figure approaches you on the street, do not be so quick to dismiss him: He may be on his way to his own off- Broadway show.