Hollywood Fringe 2016

Porno Dido

P.dido productions

Genre: Comedy, LBGT Theatre

Venue: Sacred Fools, Black Box

Festival:


Low Down

L.A. Premiere of Chicago playwright Sean Graney’s dark comedy.

Review

Sean Graney’s Porno Dido is receives its L.A. Premiere in this high-energy production directed by Heather Tyler. Treading a fine line between satire and bad taste the play explores the price one might have to pay to achieve artistic ambitions. This is not your typical Fringe offering and is not for the easily offended.

Transgender film director E.Q. (the excellent Shaan Dasani) recruits a cast of porn actors to workshop his new adaptation of the story of Dido, Queen of Carthage. The unlucky hopefuls include the novice, and probably underage, Sparkles (Christina Jacquelyn Calph), the green but willing Bob (Colbert Alembert), the sassy Drag Queen Tamburlinia (Michael Mullen), and the nervous but pragmatic Kristi (Kate Bowman) who is here solely for the money.
These comparative innocents arrive at an uneasy truce which is disrupted by the arrivals of Jef (Sean Bogler), an aggressively macho and bona fide porn actor, and later, the mysterious German backer of the project (Miles Tagtmeyer). E.Q. tries to retain control of his pet project as it slides further and further from his artistic vision. How low does it have to sink before he wants nothing more to do with it? And how far are the fledgling performers prepared to go to achieve their vague dreams?
The performances from the ensemble are uniformly strong, taking us from a sitcom-like premise to much darker territory as the play progresses and drugs and money raise the stakes. A prosthetic penis gets a laugh on its first appearance, but is not so funny later.
Graney’s writing is strong and clear and the cast rise up to meet it, the piece ends up finding its own playing style, definitely rooted in truth but growing beyond farce to something approaching melodrama. This has been cleverly fore-shadowed by the excerpts from the story they are rehearsing.
The set is a suitably claustrophobic thrust, though with so many strong characters onstage throughout, the play might have benefited from a larger playing area and more opportunities for focusing the action than the design allows. Heather Tyler’s crisp direction keeps the action fast, funny and farcical, making the satisfying denouement even more surprising.
Highlights were Michael Mullen’s tragically plausible Tamburlinia, and Christina Jacquelyn’s trainee porn star Sparkles, but honors seemed very evenly divided in this truly ensemble piece.
Porno Dido may not be to everyone’s taste but it is a commendable piece of work and I hope it finds the audience it deserves.

Published