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Tail! Spin!
What I Learned From Porn

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Tail! Spin!

I would love to give Mario Correa solo credit for the New York International Fringe Festival comedy masterpiece playing at the Kraine Theatre, Tail! Spin!, but alas I can't. Drawn as it is almost entirely from the speeches, interviews, IM chats, and tweets of four major politicians disgraced for their roles in recent sex scandals, Correa's work is more a case of arrangement than full-scale assembly. Still, it's so artistically and hilariously rendered, by both Correa and his director Dan Knechtges, that it hardly diminishes the gleam of this must-see. Unfortunately, this fastest-selling show in Fringe Festival history ran out of seats before playing a single performance, so if you're not already set up, you'll either want to brave the cancellation line or wait for the inevitable transfer.

Everyone else is in for a treat as Sean Dugan, Dan Hodapp, Nate Smith, and Mo Rocca re-enact the public-eye shenanigans of (respectively, if seldom respectfully) Idaho Senator Larry Craig, Florida Representative Mark Foley, New York Representative Anthony Weiner, and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford through precisely ordered lines of dialogue and outstanding pacing. Seeing Craig's tentative food sliding under a men's room stall to ostensibly signal for sex, Foley's explicit chat with his young page, Weiner's dual obsessions with Twitter and himself, and Sanford's humiliating (and endless) press conference upon returning from a secret rendezvous with his Argentinian lover, all at blistering speed (the show runs barely over an hour), is a reminder of both the corrupting nature of power and the theatre's magical ability to deflate on the spot, on the nose, and in real time.

Some things could be smoothed out a bit: There's no good dramatic need for having the performers carry their scripts throughout, having two actors play Fox News commentator Sean Hannity is needlessly confusing, and too many cheap shots within the dialogue make it challenging for the show to maintain the consistent off-kilter journalistic tone it's obviously aiming for. But the actors, who eschew straight mimicry and instead adapt their own personalities to fit their real-life characters, are terrific; and Rachel Dratch gives a comic performance for the ages as the various wives, beards, and girlfriends, and, most dazzlingly, Barbara Walters, who function on the fringes of the story.

Dratch, in fact, plays all the most crucial characters: the enablers. Whether we look to the women behind the men or the major media figures in front of them, we expect them to hold the perpetrators accountable. Tail! Spin! is a reminder that we can rarely trust them, either, and thus the character of those we elect becomes even more important. It's a sobering message that couldn't be delivered better than it is here: in a vehicle that is constantly, deeply, and, most importantly, unimpeachably funny.

Tail! Spin!
Through August 16
The Krane Theater, 85 East 4th Street (2nd & Bowery)
Tickets and current schedule" FringeNYC.org


What I Learned From Porn

Who would expect a one-man show about the adult film industry to be utterly unsexy? Steven Kates achieves this impossible feat with What I Learned From Porn, his tedious Fringe Festival entry at the White Box at 440 Studios. The self-described highest-paid non-sex actor in XXX history has plenty to say about the business — the short version: don't get into it — and how, under the pseudonym Frank Bukkwyd, he transitioned from a screenwriter to a popular bit player. But he delivers his entire 75-minute speech with such a distracted, indifferent air, relying on notes on a nearby music stand just to keep his place, that no excitement, naughtiness, or forbidden wisdom have the chance to generate.

He even uses considerable chunks of his stage time to dispense blasé romance advice culled from the set ("be mindful of your partners"), and give women permission to escape abusive relationships in which they might be involved. Such moments are maudlin, true, but also insipid and useless, serving much the same function Kates himself did during his film career: a transparent attempt to lend professional respectability to a project intended for other purposes. And because Kates ensures that he himself remains a cipher throughout, keeping his life before, after, and away from filming a tightly guarded secret, we're denied any emotional connection or context that might arouse our interest in the subjects he discusses.

You'll walk away with a few marginally interesting tidbits — before the Internet destroyed the compensation system, women could make $500-$1,500 per scene, for example — but no lasting, lusty memories. The closest you'll come is Kates's endless, mock-poetic description of the male orgasm, which definitely lingers in your mind, albeit as an example of the last kind of time filler even a show like this needs. What I learned from What I Learned From Porn is something that may explain why Kates never won an award for his hundreds of onscreen appearances, a failure that led him to acquire the moniker of "the Susan Lucci of porn": anything can be boring if described by an expert with little enough verve.

What I Learned From Porn
Through August 17
The White Box at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St, 3rd Floor (Astor Place & East 4th Street)
Tickets and current schedule" FringeNYC.org